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When should the Broncos start Drew Lock?

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Joe Flacco is floundering. Is it time for the Denver Broncos to make a change at quarterback?

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Drew Lock should return to practice this week. When does he ascend to QB1?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

During the Broncos’ 0-4 start to the season, there was a pretty noticeable divide in Broncos Country. On one side of the fence, there was a belief that Joe Flacco was not the team’s biggest issue, and so questioning the quarterback position was tired. On the other was the belief that if the team was sliding into “next year” mode early, it had to play Lock as soon as possible.

Last Thursday, Joe Flacco threw a bomb on all of that talk with his play against the Chiefs.

Waking up at 2-5 after a 36-6 debacle against Kansas City’s backup quarterback, the talk in Denver turned to benching Flacco. Who started in his place was a secondary concern to the idea that Fangio needed to send a message. Radio drama began in earnest that Flacco didn’t care, didn’t have it anymore, etc.

But the NFL doesn’t work like that, and like it or not, Flacco remains the starter against the Colts and Brandon Allen won’t see the field unless the 12-year veteran gets hurt or looks completely inept. Both scenarios are possible, but the Broncos’ coaching staff isn’t looking to make a change at quarterback just to make the change.

Which brings us to a certain rookie passer from Missouri.

When should he play in 2019, if at all?

Is Lock ready?

Way back when Drew Lock was a member of the 2019 QB class, I considered him the second best option for the Rich Scangarello offense.

Denver Broncos: A Quarterback Big Board - Mile High Report

I’ve already written a GIF Horse about Lock and you should check it out here, but let me share a few thoughts with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.

A. I think Drew Lock is going to be the Broncos selection at 10th overall.

B. I think he’s an exceptional fit in what I believe Scangarello offense is going to look like.

C. He still scares the hell out of me.

My biggest concern with Lock is that he’ll be rushed into action too soon. Media and fan pressure will be immense from the minute Elway calls him on April 25th. The PR team will sell us on Joe Flacco as the starter, but it’s not as if Lamar Jackson didn’t just supplant him in Baltimore. I strongly believe that the Missouri Tiger needs a redshirt year to reach his ceiling. Rushed into action he’ll resort to survival tactics, and many of the crippling inconsistencies you see in his college tape will linger into his pro career.

If he has the time to truly iron out his issues, I think he has a franchise arm. The good plays are hard to ignore, but they don’t erase the bad ones.

I was wrong on the 10th overall pick when Lock slid all the way out of the first round. I stand by every other part of what I wrote back then (and my GIF Horse on him). The national media made hay when Vic Fangio said Lock wasn’t an NFL quarterback yet, but look at what he said, really:

“I think a quarterback that can change his arm angles is a position when it’s needed. You don’t want to do it when you don’t have to do it. Obviously if someone’s in my face and I have to do it, that’s good to have that talent,” Fangio explained. “But if I’m strong in the pocket and there’s nothing, I want to throw over the top, nice and strong. I don’t want to rely on side-arms. It’s good that he can do that, but he needs to use that when he needs to and not when he doesn’t need to. His college offense really had no carryover to pro offenses. He was under duress a lot in college, so a lot of his plays he was running around.

”I don’t think he’s far along as far as being as NFL-ready a quarterback as he could’ve been. That’s what I mean when I say he’s got to get ready. He’s not a quarterback yet -- he’s a hard-throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet. The faster he gets that, the better off he’ll be and we’ll be.”

Lock did nothing in the preseason to suggest he’s farther along than either Fangio or I believed going in. His most ardent believers will tell you how he improved with reps, but he threw for 38 yards on 11 attempts in his first start and still took 2 sacks. I would be pretty concerned if he didn’t improve on that.

Lock’s arm talent is exciting, but playing quarterback is far more complicated than just throwing a ball hard.

To further prove my point, let’s not forget that in Lock’s last appearance before injury landed him on IR, he fumbled a snap. He took 6 sacks in 51 pass attempts and completed 60% of his passes. You can argue that the Broncos’ questionable offensive line depth played a part in both, but let’s not pretend he wouldn’t be stepping into a similar situation if he gets the starting nod.

Looking at the Broncos’ schedule, it’s easy to see some of the mismatches coming that could make Lock’s life hell. Cleveland’s Myles Garrett against Garett Bolles is the kind of mismatch that leaves you squeamish. The Vikings have one of the very best edge duos in the league with Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter.

Which brings us to Buffalo. If the Broncos are looking to make an early switch at quarterback to give Lock some game action to learn what they have in him, it makes a lot of sense. Sean McDermott has worked some real witchcraft and found a lot of luck in order to get the Bills to second place in the AFC.

If you’ve kept up with my Power Rankings week to week, you’ll know I strongly hold to the belief that good teams beat bad teams badly. Buffalo has squeaked by the Dolphins and Jets. They needed four missed field goals to beat the Tennessee Titans with Marcus Mariota at the helm.

Now, the biggest issue with Buffalo is Josh Allen at quarterback. The defense has actually been one of the better units in football until this past weekend. They’re strong against the pass and have a very opportunistic secondary, but the pass rush is lacking and Scangarello could feasibly aid his rookie passer with a run heavy game plan.

It isn’t perfect, and the crumbling Chargers at home to start December may be a better first game. Things get complicated when you stop to realize that Lock hasn’t been activated from IR yet, so there remains a possibility the coaching staff or Elway prefer a sacrificial goat in Flacco. If that remains the case with the veteran’s problems identifying the blitz, pocket presence, and finding his open receivers persist?

You start to wonder how bad Lock looks.

Your Broncos Links

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There have been calls for a while; it now seems Elway is listening.

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Surprising: the #Broncos offense is one of the best in the league at staying out of third and long.

Predictable: Denver are one of the worst teams in the league at converting third and long.

Denver Broncos: Vic Fangio totally gets it, but can he fix it? - Mile High Report

It’s clear that Vic Fangio has a firm grasp over this disappointing situation with the Denver Broncos, but will he be able to fix it?

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I guarantee you that the Eagles are going to trade for Denver Broncos cornerback (slot corner) Chris Harris before the NFL trade deadline. I don’t know the details of the trade, but it’s going to occur.

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If I’m Elway, I’m putting Emmanuel Sanders and Chris Harris Jr., on the block, hoping to get two picks in the first five rounds for them. Then I decide whether the best plan is to go all-in on Lock as the quarterback of the future. If so, you use the 2020 draft to build around him, particularly on the offensive line. If not, you use the top-10 pick Denver will have and supplement with the extra picks (Denver has Pittsburgh’s three from the Devin Bush trade-down last April) and move up to get in prime passer position. Another quarterback after acquiring Keenum, Flacco and Lock in the last 20 months seems almost malpractice. But if Elway and his staff don’t have the confidence in Lock, they’ve got to be aggressive to get one of the good guys in the ’20 draft.

NFL Draft Links

Kyle Crabbs’ 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 | The Draft Network

Another TDN mock with Kristian Fulton to the Broncos...

NFL Links

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“You’re gonna have to live with the consequences that come with it. That’s how I see it,” Watson said. “I try to stay in my lane. I try not to take the path. I respect Mitch and what he’s done and all the hype he’s getting, but at the same time, my result speaks for itself. I feel like I’ve accomplished everything that I could. I guess if that’s who they’re gonna roll with, so be it.”

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The Raiders are reportedly looking to acquire pass rush or linebacker help, so here’s five names to keep in mind.

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“We’re kicking it. That’s what we do. That’s what our mentality’s going to be and there’s no reason to change,” Carroll said, via Adam Jude of the Seattle Times.

Cam Newton “will be with the trainers this week” – ProFootballTalk

Rivera said that reporters at open portions of this week’s practices may see Newton, but it would be on a side field. Rivera said the quarterback “will be with the trainers this week” as he continues to do rehab work with his injured foot. As a result, Rivera also confirmed that Kyle Allen will start when the Panthers visit the 49ers on Sunday.

Pat Shurmur: Daniel Jones is learning, we won’t go back to Eli Manning – ProFootballTalk

“No. I think Daniel’s going to learn from everything that’s going on,” Shurmur said, “Just like all the other rookies that are playing are going to learn from the things that happen. But you have to learn and you have to win games. I’m well aware of that. Totally well aware of that.”

Injuries: Will Fuller (hamstring) to miss several weeks - NFL.com

Texans wideout Will Fuller suffered a significant hamstring pull that is expected to keep him several weeks, Ian Rapoport reports. Fuller, who went down is Sunday’s loss to the Colts, is Houston’s second-leading receiver.