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The Broncos' defense will help make decision on QB

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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. -- To win the job as the Denver Broncos quarterback, Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will have to show an understanding of the playbook and make the quickest and most efficient adjustments to defensive coverages. They will also have to be able to lead the team on and off the field.

And, oh, they'll need to solve the riddle of one of the league's toughest defenses -- every day. In a twist of what will be one of the league's most hotly contested jobs, the Broncos' own defense could well tip the scales.

"It's a help," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "It's a help because when you're facing the best every day, it makes game day easier."

But life won't be easy as the Broncos work through the summer sun after training camp opens later this month. Because the Broncos defense, which has led the league in pass defense in each of the past two seasons, practices all day, every day, as if multiple completions are grounds for dismissal.

Even a future Hall of Famer -- one Peyton Manning -- described it as a different deal.

"They get as close to game speed as you can," Manning said. "[Training camp and offseason workouts] is when you try things, see what you can do in certain situations. And a lot of the time, you're not always getting the same kind of look you would in a game and you have to figure that in. Those guys play it like a game, they push you."

Start with the fact the Broncos have a starting secondary with four players who have each played in at least one Pro Bowl over the past two years. They also have the guy many in the league consider the game's best pass-rusher -- Von Miller. The Broncos have finished among the league's top four in defense in four of the past five years, have led the league in sacks twice in those five years and led the league in pass defense in back-to-back years. There is also that matter of the Super Bowl 50 win, when Miller led a defensive-powered trophy drive.

"That's part of it," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We know the level we have to play to be among the best, to be the best -- and we always want to be the best."

Often defenses open training camp a little more settled into what they're doing than their offensive counterparts. And while the pads are on for many camp practices, injury concerns keep the offensive line from being given the full freedom to protect quarterbacks or block in the run game at game speed.

It can make for some tough football sledding for quarterbacks. Last summer Mark Sanchez, who was set to enter his eighth NFL season as one of three quarterbacks competing for the Broncos' job in training camp, said the defense practiced "unlike many others can. They force you to work the windows you see in games."

Siemian won the job last year, in large part, with his work against the Broncos' starters in practice. He then carried those results into his snaps in preseason games.

Both Siemian and Lynch, as they tried to learn the new offense, struggled at times against the Broncos defenders during offseason work. The defense, by contrast, was working largely with the same playbook template it has used for the previous two seasons.

"That only helps you when you go against the best defense in the league and the two best corners and the best safeties and the best linebacker," Lynch said during the Broncos' offseason work. " ... Of course, you're going to have days where they get you."

"We're lucky to go against those guys every day," Siemian said. " ... We're buying time and working snap counts, which you have to do against this group or else they'll eat you alive. It's great practice for [the quarterbacks] and everybody else."

Siemian and Lynch figure to equally split time with the starters until Joseph makes a decision on who wins the job. That means, if all goes according to plan, they would get roughly the same number of chances against the Broncos defensive starters.

"Seeing the edge rushers that we have, seeing the tight coverage every day, it's going to help those guys play better on game day," Joseph said. " ... and I always believe your goal is structure things so games should be easier than practice."