Lock-ed in for the Future?
When John Elway traded up in the second round for the Missouri kid he’d always been linked to, the countdown started for when we’d see Drew Lock as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. His time finally came in Week 13 after the trials and tribulations of the Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen experience. A new optimism immediately surrounded that position in Denver for the first time since the Peyton Manning days.
It wasn’t perfect, but intriguing enough that I watched every snap of Lock for those five games. I wanted to see if the raw, polarizing SEC career passing leader had taken the step up in the pros that he so desperately needed. I tried to mix in the good and the bad from his snaps (there’s so much to talk about on every throw of his). I’ll explain my takeaways in 7 key areas with some clips included!
Lock’s calling card coming out of Missouri was without question his arm talent, and it still pops off the screen when watching his first five games in the league. He is more than capable of making every throw in the book and hitting the tightest of windows. This type of ability can really elevate an offense’s ceiling. Just watch and admire.
From three positive clips to three negatives. This wasn’t to say Lock’s decision making was bad at all for a first time starter. For the most part, he protected the football well and made good timing throws to keep the offense on schedule. However, it’s crippling mistakes like these that also showed up on his college tape, and must be ironed out for him to keep this job. Against Houston, he tries to fit the home run ball in between two DBs on a hole shot while staring down the route the whole way. These types of forced throws cannot happen. On back to back snaps in the snow against Kansas City, Lock is pushed from the pocket and throws up prayers (the second interception counts).
On the Move
Lock does have an innate ability to extend and make plays on the run. We see numerous examples like the first one here of Lock being patient and keeping his eyes downfield while still hitting the checkdown for good yardage, but as we know, he has the crazy talent to make these types of throws moving to his right and left. This is the kind of trait that makes quarterbacks special nowadays, and Drew sure has it.
Lock has some flashes in the pocket in terms of hitting throws with pressure in his face, like in the first example here. Coming into his rookie season, I had major concerns about his pocket presence and instincts when things get chaotic back there. If he can’t escape the pocket, Lock will either drift back into space when there is still room to step up and deliver, or fail to sense the rush and stay flat footed. He needs to show more confidence and willingness to step up in the pocket, because he has the ability to make the throws in these circumstances. You hope to see him continue to iron out this fatal flaw that he has.
This was an area where we did see improvement from Lock over the course of the five games. Against LA, his interception was a bad one. His eyes did not leave the linebacker and he threw straight into his path without attempting to manipulate the second level of defenders. We also see him failing to leave his checkdown here, resulting in him missing a wide open receiver downfield. This isn’t to just highlight the negatives, but those were a couple glaring mistakes from him. As you see in the third clip, he settled into the offense and the speed of the game as he went, and was comfortable enough eventually to scan the whole field and deliver. Lock is a smart, committed learner, who will continue to improve in this area over time.
These two plays in the Houston game really highlight the maturity you see in Lock’s game at times. These are a couple simple reads, sure. But Drew showed a special level of comfort when he was given different blitzes and coverage packages. He throws hot with a rhythm you just don’t normally see from a rookie in those situations. Here, in the first clip, as the safety rolls back into a two-high look, Lock knows where he’s going with the ball before it’s even snapped. The middle of the field is now wide open, and he fires a bullet between the safeties for a score.
In the second clip, there is a delayed blitz off the edge that Lock sees, and with the linebackers rotating to fill in the gap left behind, Lock hits the back on the angle route for easy yardage. This part of the game comes easy to him.
There’s a confidence about him that’s just easy to fall in love with. For the poor decisions that we’ve seen earlier in this study, there’s also incredibly impressive plays that make you wonder if you’re watching a rookie second round pick or not. For the second touchdown in his first game, Lock steps up (more of that, please!) beautifully and fires a strike over the traffic to the back of the end zone. And against Oakland, he calmly lays a ball in between several defenders with the pocket starting to collapse. These types of plays stem from his confident demeanor, and are so exciting to watch for a young quarterback.
It’s all there! I was admittedly a Lock doubter coming out, but he reinvigorated Broncos Nation at the tail end of 2019, and rightfully so. He’s got the arm and the mobility, the charisma and the confidence, the want-to and the coachability. Drew showed improvement in all five games, which is one of the most important things to look for as well. He showed a great maturity in reading defenses and had impressive control of the offense at this stage in his career. We still need to see improvement in the pocket – he can sure create his own yards but he’ll need to step into throws and up in the pocket with more frequency to keep the offense humming. The forced throws and bad mental mistakes were understandable for a player of his nature, but I’m encouraged that he’ll be able to limit these in the future.
Drew Lock is a student of the game, and I know we hear that term thrown around a lot these days. Even so, he should grow into the new Pat Shurmur offense with no problems, given how he handled it in his opportunity in 2019. So, yes, he’s locked in for the next season, and likely the season after that. At least, he has the ability to be, but we know he’ll be studying up as well. There is reason to be excited about the future of the Broncos quarterback position once again.