ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Drew Lock has, up to this point, pretty much played quarterback his way.
And why not? It worked fine. He slung his way to 12,193 yards at Missouri, 99 touchdowns and a fair amount of did-you-see-that throws. And the Denver Broncos liked all of that enough to select him in the second round of April’s NFL draft as the team’s next candidate to be the homegrown quarterback prospect the team hasn’t had (except for Tim Tebow’s half-season festival in 2011) since Jay Cutler was traded in 2009.
The Broncos want to develop a homegrown prospect, something they haven’t done well. But for Lock to do that, he will have to play quarterback the Broncos’ way. And whether the local populace, Lock or anyone else likes it or not, that just might take a bit.
“His college offense really had no carryover to pro offenses and he was under duress a lot of times at his college, so a lot of his plays he was running around,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I don’t think he’s far along being a ready NFL quarterback as he could have been. … He’s not a quarterback yet. He’s a hard-throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet.”
As Denver opened training camp last week, Joe Flacco, whom the Broncos traded for in February, looks like the best quarterback to run the Broncos’ offense. That, along with Lock’s learning curve, could give the Broncos the gift of patience.
Asked in training camp’s first days what the timetable was for Lock, Fangio said: “It could be a process to where it could be a couple of years. … I tell him that is on him. He’s got to do it.”
After being burned by the first-round selection of Paxton Lynch in 2016, the Broncos don’t want to rush things this time around. The Broncos had traded up to pick Lynch, then repeatedly tried to put him in the lineup, only to repeatedly see a quarterback who wasn’t ready. In the end Lynch’s tenure with the Broncos was three training camps to go with just four starts before he was released last summer after not even winning the backup job.
Which is all part of the equation with Lock. He has arm strength, athleticism — he was a high-end basketball player before he went to Missouri — confidence, and each time he’s been asked since his arrival, has said he’s ready to learn.
Lock’s training camp syllabus is typical for many QBs who played in a college spread offense: Work under center, not just the shotgun; improved and consistent footwork; refined throwing motion and delivery for better accuracy. Lock has a strong enough arm, but would often throw from odd arm angles, even sidearm, and didn’t involve his lower body into his fundamentals. That’s to go along with the rather large task of learning an NFL offense and understanding a far bigger array of coverages than he saw in college.
“With Drew he’s just learning his craft,” said Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. “ … It’s the hardest thing on the planet to do well … you want to go out and work on your fundamentals, work on your feet, different things that were trying to improve as a player … But when you go under center you can’t think about those things, you have to think about the snap point, the playcall, the cadence, coverage, all the things you’re faced with, you’re not thinking about fundamentals, (so) being able to make that who you are without being live (in a game) and being able to translate it, takes work … it will be a process.”
In short, there is still a time and place for the Patrick Mahomes-type no-look toss or the sling from the hip, but it’s not all the time.
“My biggest thing is that our footwork is based on kind of your preference,” Lock said. “There is a guidance on what exactly to do on your footwork. I went back and they sent me home with tape on (Falcons quarterback) Matt (Ryan) and all the 49ers (quarterbacks). I watched all that then went back through the playbook and tried to time up my footwork with the routes and all the different plays. So, really just debriefing back through the playbook and trying to match my footwork up with everything to help me play more smooth out here.”
Lock has repeatedly said he likes Scangarello’s approach in teaching the position. And in training camp’s early going he has largely been running with the third-team offense — Kevin Hogan has largely worked with the second-team offense.
Still, just how big is the to-do list for Lock at the moment?
“Improvement in all areas,” Fangio said, “command of the offense, command of the line of scrimmage, decisions on where to throw the ball—how quickly he can make those decisions. Everything. Just become a quarterback.”