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How Broncos QBs spend summer vacation may decide the starter

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Preseason games to dictate Broncos' starting QB (0:58)

Jeff Darlington says Denver head coach Vance Joseph is expecting to decide in preseason if Trevor Siemian will be replaced by Paxton Lynch. (0:58)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos open their season on Sept. 11, either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will be the starting quarterback.

A few things have to happen before coach Vance Joseph makes the call. Each quarterback has some fine-tuning and studying to do to learn the new offense. And each must be careful in how he spends the rest of the summer vacation.

"As I've said to all the players, not just [the quarterbacks]: Learn the system. That's the most important," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said before the Broncos adjourned for their summer break. "I consistently say, 'When you leave this office, you have to study.' Everybody has talent; the key is learning [the plays] and knowing what to do. Everybody, including [the quarterbacks], has to put themselves in a position to come back here for camp ready to compete for a job."

What Joseph is saying in so many words: "Have fun, but not too much," and "Don't forget the playbook."

To that end, Siemian and Lynch, along with the team's running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, will have a Manning-esque passing camp in Los Angeles in the coming days. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said at minicamp last month that "it's a priority for us to get together."

Siemian has said he would use the weeks away from the Broncos' facility to make up for lost time in the weight room because of surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Lynch said he would once again work with longtime college and CFL coach Charlie Taaffe on footwork and other parts of throwing mechanics.

"Competition is good for everybody," Siemian said. "...We want to be back and forth. ... We're pushing each other."

The Siemian/Lynch decision will be the hottest topic as the Broncos roll into training camp later this month. And while the offseason program is a time for both quarterbacks to learn the offense before opening up the competition in camp, the work of Siemian and Lynch in May and June did not go unnoticed, according to Joseph and McCoy.

To win the job, each will have a key question or two to answer, beyond showing his ability to take what's talked about in the meeting room out onto the field.

Siemian's grasp of the offense and what defenses are trying to do is better than Lynch's at the moment. Siemian won a three-way battle in Broncos training camp last summer because of his reliability and consistent ability to move the offense in practices and preseason games.

McCoy wants to push the ball downfield in the passing game, and Siemian will have to show the willingness to do that. One of the most difficult criticisms for a quarterback to overcome is that he won't make a throw to win a game.

Siemian has done it, but his receivers haven't always helped -- most notably on late-game throws against the Chiefs and Titans last season. If not for dropped passes, both games could have been wins. But Siemian played it safe much of the time during the learning period of minicamp and OTAs, especially in the final days of the offseason program, and the new coaching staff on offense wants a little more.

Mistakes aren't taken lightly, so Siemian can't force the issue, but his chances of winning the job might hinge on his ability to pick his spots downfield. In practice, the offense will face the league's No. 1 passing defense.

"You have to move the offense, move the chains and score points," Siemian said. "Whatever it takes. And take care of the ball. It all has to happen."

Lynch must have a better presence in the huddle, in front of the team -- have the look of "the guy." And he has to avoid consistently leaving the pocket -- he has been too quick to take off -- if his first read is covered.

Lynch's scrambling in noncontact practices has been characterized as a showcase of his mobility rather than a reluctance to work through all his progressions and find a receiver, but he must learn to be be patient. He also has to avoid trusting his quality arm too much.

During a red-zone drill in June, a throw he made across his body, all the way across the field into triple coverage, was Exhibit A of the kind of play that loses a quarterback competition.

"I want to stay on top of the playbook," Lynch said. "...I want to come back ready to go."

Joseph said the competition will be decided "when there is separation." It could be made early in camp or just before the regular season begins.

"Those guys have to come back ready to compete and show what they can do," Joseph said. "I'll keep saying it: The goal is to make the right decision, not the quick one."