Does Michael Penix Jr.’s skill set fit as a potential Broncos quarterback?
Feb 1, 2024, 7:32 PM | Updated: 7:33 pm
MOBILE, Ala. — If you become the new Broncos quarterback and you want to succeed, you have to take what’s there. Because in Sean Payton’s offense, there’s often SOMETHING available that can keep the line moving — whether it’s a checkdown, a quick decision to scramble or a vacated area in which a slant route will gobble a quick 12 yards.
This week, that was a point of emphasis for Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. as he worked with a staff of NFL coaches.
The coverage provided by the National team’s secondary during practices this week at the University of South Alabama did the offenses no favors. As a collective group, this group of cornerbacks is among the best at the Senior Bowl in recent memory, and in the lack of open horizons for receivers, it showed.
Which meant having to decide between options that weren’t a first choice … including the checkdown. Sometimes, the prudent call is the slow-and-steady one. Quite often this week, that was the case.
“Patience” was the biggest thing that Penix took from the week.
“Just continue to take the layups,” he said. “I heard that from one of the coaches: ‘Take the layups, man, and those layups can turn into big plays. So, basically, not forcing the ball down the field, putting your team in bad positions. You don’t want to turn the ball over in this league, because it’s hard to win; it’s hard to score in this league. So, just making sure I’m taking what the defense is giving me.”
BEING A BRONCOS QUARTERBACK FOR SEAN PAYTON IS ALSO ABOUT INTELLIGENCE …
And with Michael Penix Jr., it’s obvious just by listening to him talk about concepts.
Take, for example, when he was given a scenario in a meeting with an unnamed team’s officials during Senior Bowl week. Penix related how he was asked to show a play that could beat a Cover-2 look.
Michael Penix Jr. explains what he broke down at the whiteboard to a team that interviewed him and asked him about beating a Cover-6 look. pic.twitter.com/WeZGs8BsxU
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) February 2, 2024
“They did put me on the board, and I spoke about one of my plays,” Penix explained. “They asked about a Cover-6 beater, and I basically just drew up a high-low to one side, and on the back side, I had an over route with a curl — which is a post curl — and in my offense, we can attack with the post curl and give them a post route. In a Cover-6, you’ve got Cover-2 to the boundary; Cover-4 to the field.
“And you’ve got the high-low on the corner on the Cover-2 side. So, I start reading that side first — high-low to the corner — and if I don’t like it, I’m going over to my over route, and on the four side, that safety, he’ll take the over route. And if I feel like he’s going to take the over route, I can tap my receiver, give him a post route and go over the top. And if not, then I’m finding my check down to the backs.”
This sort of understanding — and quick ability to process, adapt and adjust — is essential to success not only as a Broncos quarterback with Payton, but for any in the NFL. It’s a core competency almost no passer can expect to do without.
But that’s just part of what Penix wanted to show.
In fact, when asked about the most important traits he wanted to convey in his interview, it had nothing to do with play design.
“[It’s] that I’m willing to compete, and compete at the highest level. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I came here,” Penix said, referring to the fact that he accepted his Senior Bowl invitation and took part just three weeks after being roughed up physically in Washington’s national-championship game loss to Michigan.
“When I came here, I wanted to show the coaches that I’m willing to compete, and I love football, and just show my leadership, just make my presence and my command be seen. And I definitely feel like I do that. I have been doing a pretty good job with that, and I do want to continue to keep getting better, continue to keep learning, continue to keep growing in all phases of my game.”
And sometimes he has to do that in contrasting styles depending on the team and the interview.
“Those guys, they ask for different things. Some of the guys, they want you on the board. Some of the guys, they just want to talk ball with you. Some of them, they pull up your game film,” Penix said.
Which is why Penix wants to convey confidence in how he answers questions — something that is obvious watching him on the field.
“That’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to be confident — especially at this position,” Penix said. “Everything isn’t gonna be perfect. I wasn’t perfect, by far, this whole season. And we made it to the national-championship. We fell just short. But I wasn’t perfect. But as long as you go in there confident, you go in there knowing your stuff, and just the way that I’ve prepared throughout my college career, I feel like it allows me to be confident in those roles.”
Especially if he ends up being the new Broncos quarterback.