Brett Rypien’s late-preseason surge gets him Broncos backup QB job
At halftime in Buffalo on Aug. 20, Brett Rypien didn’t have much in his corner in the race to beat out Josh Johnson for the No. 2 QB role.
His only preseason playing time to that point saw him work the second half seven days earlier in Dallas. He went 8-for-18 and didn’t have a scoring drive to his name in that 30 minutes of work. And now he would take the field with the physically-manhandled Broncos down, 28-6.
The score didn’t matter, but Rypien’s poise in adverse circumstances did — perhaps moreso than going 22-of-26 in the second half at Buffalo. His completion percentage reflected the steadiness he displayed under fire.
And the ultimate outcome at the 53-man roster deadline is a roster spot for Rypien as the backup behind Russell Wilson.
In the end, while Johnson finished the preseason with a higher passer rating, the offense proved more efficient under Rypien’s direction on a per-possession basis.
Drives led by Johnson:
- Net yards per possession: 33.2
- First downs per possession: 1.86
- Points per possession: 2.07
Drives led by Rypien:
- Net yards per possession: 56.8
- First downs per possession: 3.20
- Points per possession: 1.90
The difference in points per possession came from a late field-goal drive last Saturday when the Broncos lost 5 yards but still got three points after taking over at the Minnesota 8-yard line. That closed the game; meanwhile, Rypien opened it with an 89-yard march that ended in a deflected end-zone interception.
Rypien and the offense didn’t finish efficiently; three trips into the opposing red zone — one in each game — ended without points. But he did many other things right along the way.
Financial considerations were irrelevant. Just $30,000 of salary-cap value separated Johnson and Rypien, per the data from OvertheCap.com. So, it wasn’t a matter of contract value and overall budgeting relative to the cap.
But one thing that did matter was Rypien’s familiarity with the scheme.
Johnson is a West Coast-offense specialist. But Rypien found a comfort zone working in another iteration of the West Coast/outside-zone attack in 2019 under then-coordinator Rich Scangarello, now serving in the same role at the University of Kentucky.
“Ultimately, the footwork and everything that I’ve been working on has really come from Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett and [passing-game coordinator Klint] Kubiak, and back to really what I was doing moreso my rookie year with Rich Scangarello and being in this West Coast-style offense,” Rypien said last week.
Timing and rhythm drives the scheme. That plays into Rypien’s strengths.
“It’s something that I’m very comfortable with, and it’s been a great thing to be a part of,” he said.
By Wednesday, Johnson could easily return. The NFL altered practice-squad rules in 2020, making it possible for veterans with any amount of experience to join the practice squad.
But for now, if something happens to Russell Wilson, the Broncos’ fate rests in the hands of Rypien.
In each of the last three years, the 53-player roster deadline brought Rypien bad news. Three deadlines, three times cut, three times to the practice squad … but now, in 2022, he sticks.
It’s a testament to Rypien’s persistence and steady growth that he won the day.