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Shurmur ‘very impressed’ with Lock’s virtual learning so far

The new offensive coordinator also praised rookie Lloyd Cushenberry, calling the center ‘very smart, very intuitive.’

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

It’s the optimistic part of the season. That time when every player is ready to prove he belongs on the roster. All previously injured players are feeling strong. Coaches feel good about new players picking up the scheme. Fans believe their team is playoff-bound.

It’s honestly a great part of the season because there is really no reason to be pessimistic.

And even though this offseason has been unlike any other, and provided far fewer glimpses of how this Broncos team will actually be when the pads go on, the positive vibes are still there as the coordinators told the media Thursday how well the zoom season has been going.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said his coaches found creative ways to engage the players - such as using Prezi (think of power point on steroids...but not the best ones) or Kahoot, an online quiz tool. They even played games, such as making the background of your screen show your favorite music artist to help create dialogue and get to know each other.

“It just made us think of new ways. You have to ask the players. I think they appreciate it,” Donatell said, adding that from a teaching standpoint, it was actually easier to scan the screen of 15-20 faces rather than a room to tell if the players were “getting” it.

New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur did think the lack of being face-to-face in meetings was occasionally a detriment for learning - particularly in encouraging guys to ask questions.

“Sometimes a guy might not ask a question and he has a question because you can see his body language,” he said. “Some of the stuff just as an educator you would see in person, you don’t see.”

But players seem to be adapting well to the virtual environment, especially Shurmur’s young, starting quarterback Drew Lock.

“I was very impressed. He was able to keep up with the installations when he and the rest of the quarterbacks and Mike [Munchak] and I would sit down and just generally talk concepts,” Shurmur said of Drew Lock. “I think he’s got a really good feel for the game. He’s developing a good feel for what we want to do. If the rumor is true that he’s throwing to our players, I think he’s learning something there. We’ll just try to put it all together here come July.”

Shurmur noted that a quarterback is judged by how good he is at helping the team win games - and Lock showed some ability to do that in the final five games of the 2019 season.

“To be 4-1, that’s a really good start,” Shurmur said. “Now I would say he fell victim to some of the rookie things that happen, but the fact that he as a rookie had a chance to play—you only learn as a quarterback, in my opinion, by playing in live game settings. He learned a great deal.”

Shurmur added that it’s “been awesome” to work with Lock, even though just remotely.

“It’s been awesome to work with him,” Shurmur said. “I think he’s embraced what we’re planning to do on offense. There’s a rumor that he’s working with the players by himself. That’s a rumor that I heard. Also, along with that rumor, I heard it’s going well.”

So a quick review before your pop quiz:

Virtual meetings have been fun? Check.

Lock gets along well with new coordinator Pat Shurmur? Check.

Lock is picking up the new offense? Check.

Players of the young offense have been able to practice together a little bit and it’s going well? Check.

Outstanding. But Lock isn’t even the only player impressing Shurmur right now.

Rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry, veteran Graham Glasgow, third-year receiver Courtland Sutton and rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler have stood out to the new OC - check.

“Number one, [Cushenberry] has been doing an outstanding job. He’s very smart. He’s very intuitive,” Shurmur said. “You can tell talking to a player—you can see why he plays center because obviously they handle a lot mentally up front. He did a great job last year at LSU. He’s really impressed us with how smart he is and his football awareness. That’s the starting point.”

Just a spot over on the offensive line, Glasgow seems to breaking in well to his new offensive scheme.

“He is a solid football player and he’s been very, very productive,” Shurmur said, noting that he’s watched Glasgow throughout his pro career, especially when he was at Minnesota while Glasgow was playing for the Lions. “He’s an interior player that has done an outstanding job. When you can bring a guy that’s done it very well for a very long time and add him to your lineup, I think that’ll be helpful. That experience there will help us, along with the fact that he’s an outstanding pass blocker as well as a run blocker.”

Between Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler - and also running backs Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon - Shurmur likes his prospects for a stacked offense.

“When you add explosive players to the roster, it not only helps them as players to have an impact, but it also helps the rest of the guys. I really do think you have to spread the ball around,” he said, adding that successful offenses usually show a stat sheet where six to seven guys caught the ball and two or three ran it. “I really do think if you’re going to play good offense, you need threats outside, inside and in the backfield. It’s going to be fun.”

As for his plans with Lindsay and Gordon, Shurmur intends to use both, sometimes as a duo, sometimes as single threats.

“What separates a running you’ve got to have some collision balance,” he said. “Your ability to break a tackle, bounce and create what is normally a good gain into an explosive one. They share those traits. They’ve both been very productive in this league, and we intend to use both of them.”

The biggest downside to this virtual-heavy offseason training is the inability to run more of the playbook and see what works as well as to see more of the younger inexperienced players who will be on the bubble.

“You don’t have the ability to run a bunch of things that you would not choose to run in games. That’s where the work behind the scenes is going to be very important,” Shurmur said. “I feel good about the concepts that we’re going to try and run. You can’t stand there at the plate and take a bunch of called strikes. You’ve got to get to work, and you’ve got to work on the things that are going to be very important.”

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