ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If Paxton Lynch's injured ankle cooperates he will start the Denver Broncos' season finale Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and have the opportunity to add to his resume as the team prepares for quarterback makeover this offseason.
Coach Vance Joseph said Tuesday that if Lynch is healthy enough to have the mobility the Broncos believe he'll need to succeed, he will get a last chance to show what he can do. Lynch hasn't played since he left his Nov. 26 start against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter. He only returned to practice last Wednesday.
"We want to see him play, that's been the goal the last couple weeks," Joseph said. " ... To see where this player is."
"He looked good," wide receiver Jordan Taylor said of Lynch's work in practice last week. "He might have been favoring the ankle. He didn't know how much he wanted to test it out last week, so I expect him to be looking a lot crisper this week and a lot more confident in that ankle."
Lynch was initially positioned to start from the Raiders game until the end of the season -- a stretch that would have given the Broncos a six-game look at his potential. But the ankle injury scuttled that plan.
He also lost the training camp competition to Trevor Siemian when he injured his left shoulder in the preseason win over the Green Bay Packers. That injury curtailed Lynch's practice time for much of the first half of the regular season, so there is still some uncertainty about his comfort level in the offense -- especially given that the start against the Raiders was the first game quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave was calling the plays after Mike McCoy was fired. Musgrave had favored a slightly different approach where he included more two-tight end and more two-back groupings on offense.
But Lynch had struggled in the Raiders' game even before his injury forced him out of the lineup -- going 9-of-14 passing for 41 yards with an interception. In two training camps, last season's two starts, and the game against Oakland, Lynch often struggled to with his composure after making mistakes.
He will get a bit of a reprieve Sunday, as the Chiefs will use plenty of backups. Kansas City clinched the AFC West title but cannot improve their playoff seeding enough to get a postseason bye. With no week off before a playoff game and the prospect of playing a Saturday game during Wild Card weekend a possibility, the Chiefs will likely employ a preseason-like lineup against the Broncos.
The biggest question will be how much Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton chooses to pressure Lynch -- the Chiefs' 26 sacks this season are tied for 26th in the NFL. If Sutton rushes four and plays it safe in coverage with backups all over the formation, Lynch could have a chance to find some open receivers. The young quarterback has been sacked at least four times in two of his past three starts. Against the Raiders this season, Lynch took all four sacks following a second-quarter interception he threw in the end zone.
With plans to take a hard look at the future of the quarterback spot in the offseason, how Lynch responds to adversity in Sunday's game will be part of the equation. The Broncos will also assess his ability to read the coverage and to get to second and third options in progressions.
Lynch, Siemian and Chad Kelly are all under contract with the Broncos in 2018 while Brock Osweiler, who has said repeatedly he likes playing for the Broncos, is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. The Broncos are also making the rounds to see all of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 draft.
General manager John Elway and director of player personnel Matt Russell were in Boise, Idaho, last week to see Wyoming's Josh Allen in a bowl game. Elway is also scheduled to be at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, where Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield will play.
Lynch's work against the Chiefs will fit somewhere in all of that.
Asked if the prospect of the Chiefs using backups would hinder the Broncos' ability to evaluate Lynch from his work in the game, Joseph said: "No, we don't care about the Chiefs, as far as who they play. It's more about our football team."