Throughout the offseason and during the first three days of training camp, every evaluation of Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian seemed coupled with the caveat that they were going up against a pass defense that led the league in each of the past two seasons and boasted a pair of first-team All-Pro cornerbacks in Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
Passing the football against that unit would be difficult for anybody.
But by the time the Broncos donned full pads for the first time in training camp Sunday, Joseph didn't want to hear any excuses for poor play.
Lynch threw two interceptions, including a red-zone pass that Bradley Roby returned for a touchdown. Siemian missed open receivers in the end zone -- and he wasn't even facing the No. 1 defense, as Lynch was.
"Did I like what I saw? Not really," Joseph said after that practice.
The media laughed, not expecting such honesty.
But Joseph was deadly serious. After a pause, he continued.
"Both guys had issues today," he said. "I didn't like what I saw today. Honest. They both struggled today."
And that's when he dismissed the notion that a tough defense is an excuse.
"No. It's NFL football. Make your reads," he said. "We have good receivers. They win against anybody. When you say that, it's not about the overall secondary, it's about the matchup. No. 88 (Demaryius Thomas) and No. 10 (Emmanuel Sanders) can win. Find them and throw the ball to them."
The Broncos have $21.57 million of their salary cap invested in Thomas and Sanders this year. Both have multiple Pro Bowl appearances in the last three seasons and have combined for six 1,000-yard campaigns since they first teamed up in 2014.
Quality weapons aren't an excuse.
So on Monday, Siemian and Lynch went back to work. Both did better. But Lynch also threw a pair of interceptions in the red zone during a 7-on-7 period -- something that rankled Joseph.
"I'm looking for decision-making," he said. "If we're going into score and we've already put up three points, and we give them seven to 10 points, we can't have that. That costs you games."
And if decision-making is the standard, Lynch would appear to have some ground to make up on Siemian in the competition.
The Broncos could not afford to lose another outside linebacker. But on the second day of training camp, they suffered the loss of Shane Ray for six to eight weeks because of torn wrist ligaments.
Ray's injury further compromises a position group already dealing with the hip injury to Shaquil Barrett, a top reserve who was expected to spell Ray and Von Miller. With Ray and Barrett out potentially until September or October, former Saints backup Kasim Edebali is in line to start Week 1.
Second-year veteran Vontarrius Dora is also in the mix, along with rookie DeMarcus Walker, a 280-pound defensive end who began taking snaps at outside linebacker Sunday and has received coaching from retired pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.
Walker hasn't functioned in a stand-up role since early in his college career at Florida State.
When asked what Ware shared with him, Walker laughed.
"I can't tell you that," he said.
With all the injuries at outside linebacker, the Broncos are expected to limit Miller's workload during the preseason to protect their star defender.