When Drew Lock became the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos they were coming off a disappointing loss to the Buffalo Bills and sat at 3-8 on the 2019 season. Over the course of the next five weeks the Broncos found a way to win four of their five remaining games to finish just under .500 on the year.
Since then, John Elway’s aggressively pursued upgrades at receiver, running back, and has traded for more talent on the defense. The boost to the supporting cast will surely help, but there’s no doubt Drew Lock is the straw that stirs the drink for Denver in 2020.
With that in mind, it seemed like an apt time to reach out to Quarterback Historian Ryan Michael to get his thoughts on the Broncos’ second year passer.
While keeping in mind that he missed time due to injury, how would you compare Drew Lock’s rookie season to other quarterbacks?
Ryan Michael: I was more impressed by Denver’s 4-1 record to close out the season than I was by Lock’s up-and-down rookie campaign.
The Broncos allowed 19.8 PPG during Lock’s 5 starts (4-1). They also allowed 19.8 PPG during the team’s previous 11 games (3-8). Being asked to score 20.0+ PPG is a great position for a young quarterback to be in.
Lock was an upgrade over Joe Flacco and a big upgrade over Brandon Allen. The “lows” were to be expected, as they would be for any rookie quarterback. The “highs” were impressive, especially his performance vs. Houston (98.5 Total QBR).
You’ve heard it said before, but 5 games is too small of a sample-size to read too much into.
Drew Lock to Courtland Sutton is going to be fun. pic.twitter.com/5gxhxXa08Y— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 20, 2020
Can you elaborate on that? What was most impressive about the 4-1 finish to you?
Ryan Michael: The Broncos have been a team in a state of disarray since winning Super Bowl 50. After opening the 2019 season 0-4 and working their way to 3-8 before Lock took over, it would have been easy to limp their way into a better draft selection.
That didn’t happen.
Their defensive consistency—something that Siemian, Lynch, Osweiler, Keenum, Flacco and Allen failed to fully take advantage of—was there for their rookie quarterback to lean on.
Lock didn’t get off to a Patrick Mahomes-like start, but can you imagine how good the Broncos can be if their defense remains reliable while Lock finds his footing amongst the new pieces they’ve added?
I can. It’s one reason I’m so excited for this year!
How much growth do you expect Lock to make between last year and opening night against the Titans?
Ryan Michael: It’s very difficult to predict how much progress will be made this offseason, for Lock or any other player considering the unique circumstances the world is facing.
Adjusting to a new offensive coordinator takes time and with the absence of a typical offseason and preseason, you may not see the leaps you’re hoping for until mid-late season this year.
Every touchdown pass of Drew Lock's NFL career so far. pic.twitter.com/Gow78OjpYd— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) June 22, 2020
With that in mind, what does Lock need to do for him to earn another year at the helm? What would it take for you to consider this first full year a success?
Ryan Michael: Beyond honing his throwing mechanics (something great quarterbacks do throughout their careers), I’d like to see what Lock can do with greater mastery of the playbook, and that will take time.
Despite impressive, Madden 21-like arm strength, he wasn’t very effective throwing downfield in 2019. What happens when YAC isn’t as plentiful? What happens when your defense struggles and you have no choice but to expand the range of your throws?
There is a very big difference between being able to sling it and actually being an effective downfield passer. There’s a reason why you’d take Peyton Manning over Jay Cutler 10 years ago, or Russell Wilson over Josh Allen today in those situations.
Accuracy and consistency are two of the most underrated quarterback traits there are, traits we often overlook when discussing young quarterbacks.
For me to consider his first full season a success? I’d like to see Lock overcome less post-reception support. I’d like to see him answer a 3-touchdown Mahomes performance with a 4-touchdown pass performance. That’s what it’s going to take to win this division.