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Drew Lock Has More to Prove in Preseason to Win Broncos' QB Job

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2021

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

With all the buzz around rookie quarterbacks following Week 1 of the preseason, it may have fallen through the cracks that third-year Denver Broncos signal-caller Drew Lock also put on a show.

Now, he needs an encore presentation to win the Broncos' quarterback battle.

Lock came close to perfection in Saturday's game against the Vikings, showing poise, moving the pocket and throwing accurate strikes downfield. He finished 5-of-7 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns with a 153.3 passer rating. 

Teddy Bridgewater, who is also competing for the starting job, had an efficient performance, too, finishing 7-of-8 passing for 74 yards and a score with a 144.8 passer rating.

The Broncos routed the Vikings 33-6 with a strong offensive showing that resulted in 387 total yards. 

After the game, head coach Vic Fangio didn't favor either quarterback in the ongoing competition:

"I thought that they both played well. ... They both were helped by the overall play of our offense; we ran the ball well early that sets up our play-action game. ... And then Teddy gets in there and moves the team well. I don't think any separation happened in this game, if anybody's looking for it. ... I'm thrilled they both played well. I want it to be a hard decision.''

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David Zalubowski/Associated Press

So, what does Lock have to do in order to top Bridgewater in the next couple of weeks?

Following Denver's first preseason matchup, the 24-year-old talked about the idea of a perfect game with reporters:

"I incompleted two balls but that'll always go back, watch those because you're not always going to be perfect. Perfect game's still out there. Coach [Mike] Shula talks about quarterback test is a perfect test still out there, and there's a perfect game still out there. We want to try and be perfect and learn from it when we're not."

Lock doesn't need a flawless outing, but he still strives for better results even after an eye-opening performance. With that mentality, he will find consistency, which is what he needs to put a stronghold on the lead role. 

Last Saturday, Lock showcased his willingness to push the ball downfield. He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to wideout KJ Hamler:

NFL @NFL

.@KJ_Hamler showing off his speed on the 80-yard TD from @DrewLock23! 📺: #DENvsMIN on @NFLNetwork (or check local listings) 📱: https://t.co/3NquKzXV50 https://t.co/ixpl77laHL

According to Pro Football Focus, Lock completed three of four passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 10-plus-yard attempts. Clearly, his aggressiveness paid off.

As a more conservative quarterback, Bridgewater doesn't have a lot of those wow plays for chunk yardage. He's hasn't averaged more than 11.3 yards per completion in a single season, which dates back to his 2014 rookie campaign. Lock averaged 11.5 yards per completion in 2020. 

Lock doesn't have to show flash, but his tendency to threaten defenses over the top makes the Broncos offense dangerous with the speed of Jerry Jeudy and Hamler on the perimeter. If he continues to successfully go deep, Fangio would likely start the quarterback who can bring out the explosiveness in the passing attack.

Albeit against backups, Lock scanned the field and made decisive throws. On the first play of the second quarter, he went through his progressions and threaded the needle on a pass to Jeudy, which went for 33 yards: 

NFL @NFL

.@JerryJeudy too quick. 📺: #DENvsMIN on @NFLNetwork (or check local listings) 📱: https://t.co/3NquKzXV50 https://t.co/YOmeJLkIum

There's another side to aggressiveness, though. Last season, Lock made some head-scratching throws, with many leading to turnovers. His 15 interceptions were tied with Carson Wentz for the most in the league.

The Broncos have a stacked pass-catching group that includes Jeudy, Hamler, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Noah Fant. Lock can optimize the collective talent in that unit with better decisions in the pocket.

Lastly, Lock must take advantage of the ground attack when it's clicking on all cylinders. As Nick Kosmider of The Athletic points out, the Broncos signal-caller excelled with play action last year.

"The third-year quarterback had the league's 11th-best passer rating on throws that originated out of play-action calls last season," Kosmider wrote. "Lock threw seven of his 16 touchdown passes and none of his league-high 15 interceptions when playing off a run fake." 

Against the Vikings, the Broncos rushed for 138 yards. For his second touchdown pass, Lock faked the handoff, rolled out to his right and threw a well-placed ball to wideout Trinity Benson:

NFL @NFL

Drew Lock is dealing. 151 yards & 2 TDs on just five completions. 📺: #DENvsMIN on @NFLNetwork (or check local listings) 📱: https://t.co/3NquKzXV50 https://t.co/3R60ZixBD1

Denver doesn't need to run for 100-plus yards to execute on play action, but Lock should have a discussion with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur about incorporating those play designs so the offense caters to his strengths. 

Lock isn't going to outrun many defenders, but he can make plays with his arm on the move, especially if linebackers and safeties crowd the box.

In his second year under Shurmur, Lock should have a better grasp of the Broncos' offensive scheme. With two preseason games to go, he can show his mastery of the system. 

Lock checked multiple boxes in a short period in his first test. In the next outing, Bridgewater will start the game against the Seattle Seahawks, but if Lock remains aggressive and decisive with an accurate arm, he can still outshine his competitor and win the job.

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