Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (2024)

The priority is getting first-round rookie Bo Nix ready to play for keeps as soon as possible, but Jarrett Stidham seemed to be the top QB during the offseason.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo — A quarterback first communicates the play call consisting of letters, numbers, directions and words to his teammates in the huddle.

A quarterback breaks the huddle, moves to his shotgun or under-center position, looks over the defense, determines whether the play call is good or bad, and either runs the play or checks to another one.

A quarterback receives the snap, spins the laces, simultaneously looks at his receivers breaking and defenders covering, and determines where to throw the ball. Look, Troy Franklin is breaking open deep.


Run it again!

This is what is called a practice repetition. Or rep, for short. It’s not always exciting. In fact, it’s almost never exciting. Yet, it’s necessary if a team is to bring excitement to a play when it counts on Sunday.

Broncos’ rookie quarterback Bo Nix needs practice reps. A first-round draft selection, and head coach Sean Payton’s hand-picked solution to Denver’s long-running quarterback woes, Nix’s development is the Broncos’ No. 1 priority for training camp 2024.

It begins when Nix and the rookies report to team headquarters July 17 and revs up once the veterans show up to make it a full-squad endeavor come July 23.

RELATED: Denver Broncos early training camp rookie preview

During the Broncos’ 12 completed offseason practices from late May to mid-June, Payton rotated his three quarterbacks equally with the No. 1 offense. Jarrett Stidham, the incumbent, was the No. 1 QB one day. Zach Wilson, the former Jet, still another day. Nix, the franchise Wonder Man, yet another day.

Training camp and the preseason, though, take on greater importance. More 11-on-11 reps are available because the practice sessions are longer. Eventually, Payton will have to settle on his season-opening starting quarterback for the Broncos’ game Sept. 8 at Seattle, and then game 2, Sept. 15 against Russell Wilson and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If Nix is the starter from the jump, the newcomer will need all the reps he can get during training camp and the preseason. If he’s the No. 2 QB for the first few weeks of the season, he will still need all the reps he can get.

Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (1) Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (2)

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) takes part in drills during a mandatory minicamp June 11 at the team's headquarters in Centennial, Colo.

How will Payton split up the quarterback reps during training camp and decide on his season-opening starter? Here are some possible options:

Keep the three-man QB rotation through training camp and three preseason games, then name the starter.

Stidham was the most consistent QB performer during the offseason, at least during the five practice sessions open to the media. The other offensive players may have saw that, too, while also acknowledging Nix was impressively a close second.

Will Nix close the gap or leap past Stidham during training camp?

A scout could argue Stidham, a sixth-year player with just four NFL starts, has the highest floor among the three QBs but also the lowest ceiling. Wilson, a No. 2 overall draft pick just three years ago, might have the lowest floor but the highest ceiling.

And Nix is steadily in between. Steady consistency can be a preferred quality for NFL quarterbacks.

Open with a three-man QB rotation, but narrow the competition to two QBs by the second week of camp.

This is the typical way teams address position battles. The guys who are going to play need to practice together heading into the first preseason game, which for the Broncos is Aug. 11 at the Indianapolis Colts.

And again, dropping one QB to No. 3 status would mean more reps for Nix – who will either be No. 1 or No. 2. The No. 3 role is not an option for the rookie who was the No. 12 overall draft pick.

Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (3) Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (4)

Credit: (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Broncos quarterback Bo Nix takes part in drills during minicamp Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at the team's headquarters in Centennial, Colo.

Pick the starting quarterback after the joint practice with the Packers.

All three QBs figure to play against the Colts. Then it’s a joint practice Friday, Aug. 16 against the Green Bay Packers at Broncos Park Powered by CommonSpirit. Ordinarily, the joint practice takes priority for the No. 1 units. The players who get heavy reps in the joint practice don’t usually play in the preseason game two days later.

Nearly three weeks of camp, a preseason game and a joint practice should be enough body of work to determine which QB will start the regular-season opener at Seattle – and in turn not play in preseason game No. 2 against the Packers on Aug. 18.

Wait until after the preseason game against the Packers to decide on No. 1.

Last season, Payton gave his No. 1 offense and defense their most significant preseason playing time in game 2 against the San Francisco 49ers and didn’t play his starters in the third and final preseason game against the Rams.

Then again, last year was different. There were two joint practices with the Rams before the preseason game No. 3. That this season’s joint practice occurs before preseason game No. 2 could cause Payton to adjust his schedule.

And by the way. There is another way to look at the Broncos’ QB battle: One competition is between Stidham and Nix for No. 1.

And the other competition is between Stidham and Wilson for the second quarterback alongside Nix.

Either way, the Broncos’ 2024 training camp and preseason is about getting Nix ready to play for keeps sooner rather than later.

Name Stidham or Nix the starter on the first day of camp.

Payton wouldn't do that, would he? While it would eliminate the daily QB questions and distractions, there is not enough separation between Stidham and Nix to declare a winner before the first practice. Position battles are settled during training camp, not before.

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Broncos training camp preview: How will Payton rotate his quarterbacks? (2024)


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