One of the benefits the doldrums of the off-season afford is an opportunity to look back at the past year for additional nuggets on tape.
Joe Rowles and I have been doing exactly that on the piece most critical to Denver’s success next season, starting quarterback Drew Lock.
A brief thread of some little things (and a few big) that I liked from Drew Lock's tape upon a 3rd re-watch.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) February 17, 2020
Teaser: @JoRo_NFL and I break it all down on @Cover2Broncos tomorrow!
One of my favorite: #39 green dogs, but Lock is able to throw the perfect ball to Beck in stride. pic.twitter.com/MtpiN8CtcN
Between the two of us, I think we’re up in the double digits of times we have watched through Lock’s tape (playing only five games certainly helps!), and we break down what we saw in great detail on Episode 3 of Cover 2 Broncos. Check out the link above, or right here if you want to catch our conversation.
To add a visual element to our discussion, I wanted to take some time to break down some of the things we discuss on the show, and hopefully give Broncos Country some reasons to be excited about the young signal caller.
Lock’s first throw of his career was an incompletion, but I still like it. Right away he sees the mismatch of Courtland Sutton in the slot to the left on a linebacker (you read that right).
Sutton goes up the field for a slot fade, and looks to be anticipating the ball over his inside shoulder. While he was still open from there, I actually like Lock’s ball placement on this, as he tries to lead Sutton away from the MOF safety.
They couldn’t connect on this one, but this is for sure a look we’ll see under Pat Shurmur as he used slot fades pretty frequently in New York.
Big Arm (but we knew that already)
In case you hadn’t heard or seen, Lock has a cannon for an arm. He puts it to good use here as he waits for Beck #83 to get open coming out of the backfield and over on the deep crosser.
It’s a long developing route, so he has to hang in there a while. #39 was initially in man coverage on Heuerman, but since Heuerman stays in to block, the safety does what’s called a green dog blitz, where he’ll rush late if his man stays in to block.
Because of this, there’s a free rusher in Lock’s face as he waits for the route, so he drifts to his left and muscles the throw across the field as he is falling away, dropping a perfect throw to hit Beck in stride.
Lock had a lot of success with this concept during the last five games of the season. Here against the Raiders they run it, but what’s even more encouraging is it looks like Lock checked into this play when he saw the box count.
Oakland is loaded up with nine in the box, so it’s a perfect opportunity to play action and throw it over their heads.
I said this on the podcast, I’m not sure how much pre-snap responsibility or freedom Lock had in his first five starts. We know that first TD pass to Sutton in the Chargers game was a check he made based on a coverage tag they had built into the offense, and it looks as though this one was Lock’s call as well. Would love to see more of this from him under Shurmur and Shula.
Side note: the protection they use on this play with Risner pulling around selling the play action and then blocking on the right side, is something Peyton Manning used in his offenses a lot, and then actually taught it Tom Brady (come on, Peyton!) and they used it all the time with Gronk. Here’s a clip of Brady telling the story.
Peyton coached up Brady and it helped Gronk. You have to watch this. pic.twitter.com/RqD03zIXFR— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) December 28, 2019
One of the significant growth areas for Lock over the five game stretch was his comfort level reading the field. Although he looked good in the LAC and Houston game, Lock was at times too locked in ( ) on his first read, and it actually got him into trouble a few times.
However, the last two games of the season, Lock was much more adept at going through his progressions and getting to his second or third read.
This play epitomizes it, to me. He starts to the right where he wants to work the spacing concept, but the coverage is sound across the board, so he comes all the way back across the field and works the levels concept on the backside, finding DaeSean Hamilton over the middle on the dig route.
Here’s the end zone angle.
Joe Rowles put together a whole cutup of Lock working through his reads on the drive this play above comes from. Nearly every play on this drive, Lock is moving off of his first read and going somewhere else with the ball.
Anyone want to guess why this may just be my favorite scoring drive of Drew Lock's young career with the #Broncos? pic.twitter.com/WyyfttZttO— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 14, 2020
This is a little thing, but I’m going to highlight another incompletion. This was one of the first plays of the game, and Lock is looking for the TE on the bootleg. The Lions are waiting for it. If he lets go of this ball and tries to force it, it’s potentially a turnover and huge momentum setter.
Instead, he smartly reads the coverage, and just gets rid of the ball.
Nothing crazy to write home about, but it’s little things like this that add up, and it shows growth, especially for a gunslinger like Lock, to take what the defense is giving you and protect the ball.
Lock’s footwork is perhaps his largest growth opportunity for next year. It was still pretty rough at the end of the 2019 season, but there were some flashes of getting it.
This is another little thing. Super routine, but it’s a little thing I want to see more and more of from Lock. Navigating the pocket with your eyes downfield, stepping up and into the throw. Nicely done. We saw this get better in the Lions and Raiders game than it was in the first three. Still a long ways to go, but improvements were there.
The culmination of that, to me is this play.
Another area Lock needs to grow in is throwing with anticipation and timing, which is a function, partly, of footwork. Here he comes out of play action, seven step drops, steps up (slight hitch but we’ll forgive it) and delivers the ball perfectly on time to Hamilton who is breaking back to the sideline.
This won’t get a ton of air time on the highlight reels, but this was one of his more impressive plays, in my opinion.
One area I want to continue to see more from Lock is ball placement. This ties back to footwork, as any issues with accuracy he showed typically can be traced back to that.
Nitpicking, but would've liked to see this be placed a little further out, and towards the back pylon. Sutton has a step and likely a TD if he's given a bit of room to work. https://t.co/IZf4Ie1Kj3— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) February 14, 2020
He had some really nice placement this season as well, as we have already seen on some of these throws. This one to me shows maturity, as Lock recognizes Hamilton will take a hit, and tries to protect him by throwing behind him and away from the defender.
Lastly, this throw to Fant is on the money. This is a separate post, but Fant needs to go up and get that thing.
Speaking of not catching a well-thrown ball....
In conclusion, even though the numbers from the last two games weren’t good, I think Lock showed some really nice things, and showed growth in some key areas.
What were your thoughts on his five game starting stretch?