ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Denver Broncos were efficiently completing camp practice on Friday, quarterback Drew Lock started a 50-yard pass for KJ Hamler during a 7-on-7 period. A crowd of fans along the hill next to the practice area had thirsted for such a game and it was celebrated with a stormy ovation.
One fan, perhaps a tired veteran of the team’s struggle in the years after Peyton Manning to resolve the quarterback, simply exclaimed, “This is the Broncos football I want. Stop the checks.”
Welcome to the 2021 Broncos Quarterback Derby, where last season’s festival of sales definitely left its mark and led the team to a position battle between Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Ball safety could trump anything else when it comes to deciding the starter, come to hell or 3 yard dump off.
“Who is the most stable? Who is the most stable? Who is the calmest?” was how Broncos general manager George Paton predicted competition at the quarterback.
NFL Nation reporters break up each division to prepare for the season.
• NFC East | AFC East
• NFC North | AFC North
• NFC South | AFC South
• NFC West | AFC West
For many believers on the team, those words may not resonate with Elway and Manning doing franchise quarterback things, but it’s the state these Broncos face. The Broncos, who have missed the playoffs in the last five seasons, led the NFL in giveaways last season (32) and also had the worst overall sales margin at minus 16. Opponents converted those turnovers into 100 points, or 22.4% of the points scored against the Broncos in 2020.
Lock, despite only finishing 20th in attempts to pass last season. It’s safe to say that the safety-first approach could make the difference when Fangio and the rest of the team’s offensive coaches make the decision about who will start the Broncos will be.
“There’s a fine line to walk,” Fangio said last week of quarterbacks who are taking the conservative approach. “Check-downs are good, but you need more than check-downs, you need the right mix.”
When asked if “wow” was playing and mistakes on the quarterbacks counted the same, Fangio said, “To me, they’re about the same, you know, I don’t know, like the smart equation of a s — y game that the game would really affect how many wow games do you need to wipe this off the books? “
Fangio went to great lengths to split the work 50-50 for each of the quarterbacks during the first week of training camp. The Broncos made sure that every quarterback got a lot of work, even down the road with the team’s top four receivers.
The cursory inspection at first sight would say Lock had more of the big games – many of them were 7v7 but no pass rush – but Bridgewater piled up completion upon completion.
Both avoided the big mistake until Bridgewater ended the first week of camp with a three-interception Saturday against the first-team defense. One was picked by defensive lineman McTelvin Agim, who then caught the distraction and returned it for a touchdown. After the exercise was over, Fangio said, “Every interception has a story” and he would check to see what the story of Bridgewater was.
Still, no matter how much grumbling may come from the fans sitting in the sun, both recognize that turnover is at the very top of the don’t-do list, which could make both quarterbacks less inclined to hit the ball to a. over the field to push decision is made.
“I feel like I am a smarter player now,” said Lock. “I feel like the odds I leave are more calculated odds than as a rookie or this sophomore year. If I hit the ball it’s a safer call. I know better when to check it out and when the 5 yards and when to reach the 3 yards That was stressed to me in the building. The gunslinger mentality can still be there, but it has to be a calculated gunslinger. “
“It’s about maximizing the reps in your session and getting your session into the end zone – moving the ball and being efficient, whether you’re doing the 2s, 3s or when we go to the equipment managers and the people have to have us served food in the cafeteria, “said Bridgewater. “They just want to be efficient. In the end, decision makers will make that decision based on the things they see.”
The 10,000-foot view is the Broncos defense, with the additions in secondary to get back into the pass frenzy with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb could be one of the best in the league. You have catch-and-run weapons in the passing game with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Hamler, Tim Patrick and Noah Fant. You have four returning starters on the offensive.
The quarterback job, at least at the beginning of the season, with a coaching staff that has to escape September for the first time with something other than disappointment (Fangio is 0 for September in the last two seasons), could simply Patons more consistent, steady and calm.
The coming weeks could bring at least part of the “separation” that Fangio seeks. The Broncos will practice against the Minnesota Vikings for two days before taking on the Vikings in their first preseason game on August 14.
Fangio has said that Lock and Bridgewater would “likely” each start a preseason game before a decision is made.
“I would expect and hope that whoever we pick and be named as the starter can play well enough and be the starter,” said Fangio. “If the game doesn’t support that, we have a capable backup. I’m not saying this to make everyone nervous. That’s just the fact of living in the NFL in all positions, play well and we win. “