The Denver Broncos just concluded Day 4 of training camp. As an alumni day of sorts, the 2,500-plus fans who showed up to UCHealth Training Center were treated to a few familiar, all-time faces as the team hoisted individual banners with the names of each former Bronco entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame next week.
Amid the festivities, the team itself was about the business of football. As always, the focus quickly fell on the ongoing quarterback competition shaping up between incumbent Drew Lock and the transplanted challenger Teddy Bridgewater.
Although opinions differ, the general feeling from media in attendance through the first three days was that after Lock won the first day, Bridgewater bounced back with consecutive practices on Days 2 and 3 to get out to an early 2-to-1 lead in the battle.
That sets the stage for what then occurred on Day 4. With the Broncos poised for an off-day on Sunday, Lock attacked Day 4's practice with aplomb, connecting on multiple big plays vertically and seeing just 3-of-15 passes hit the ground, according to The DNVR's Andrew Mason.
Meanwhile, Bridgewater started off on solid footing, but that quickly devolved into an interception-riddled slump that the veteran could not climb out of. As it can happen with quarterbacks, Bridgewater's plight went from being one hill of a mistake that compounded into a mountain of them.
After Friday's practice, which Mile High Huddle's Luke Patterson gave to Bridgewater, head coach Vic Fangio said two things of note. First, Fangio said that he'd yet to see any separation between Lock and Bridgewater through three practices.
Second, the veteran coach indirectly fired a shot across Bridgewater's bow when he addressed the former Louisville star's penchant for taking the easy checkdown.
"There's a fine line there. Checkdowns are good, but you need more than checkdowns. We need the right mix of that," Fangio said following Friday's practice.
Perhaps Bridgewater heard what his coach said and that precipitated the out-of-character day in which the signal-caller tossed not one, not two, but three interceptions. I attribute Bridgewater's Day 4 slump to that indirect pressure Fangio put on him, but it's only speculation.
Let's just say that Bridgewater's bad day at the office quite fortunately coincided with Lock producing his best of the year thus far. It's one thing to have an opponent play solid if unspectacular on a day in which you light it up, but to completely botch things while you're on fire creates a glaring contrast.
However, it was one practice. For the Broncos fans who are Team Drew, slow your roll. Let's see Lock string together at least two straight practices where he plays at such a high level before even beginning to approach a conclusion.
Conversely, for Team Teddy, his horrendous day was so atypical, it's more likely to fall under the outlier category than marking the beginning of a QB diving face-first into the schneid. Bridgewater might not be that aggressive, dynamic talent that dictates on the field and puts a defense on its heels, but he is traditionally a very buttoned-up, competent signal-caller who rarely puts his offense in a bad situation and manages the game with command.
However, Fangio wanted to see a better balance from Bridgewater where he could walk that "very fine line" of being a good game manager and taking what the defense gives him underneath while also having the wherewithal to punish opponents vertically when opportunity knocks.
Bridgewater has that game manager aspect mastered for the most part, while Lock has that gunslinger mentality. If the Broncos could meld these two players into one Voltron of a quarterback, they'd really have something.
There's a takeaway there for Lock, whom the Broncos very much want to see succeed this summer and win the job — but he won't be handed it. What is it? Success leaves clues.
Whatever Lock did to have such a good day in the face of Bridgewater's catastrophe, it's incumbent upon the incumbent (see what I did there?) to go back to the film and figure out how the sausage got made and duplicate it.
Lastly, it was one thing for Bridgewater to struggle amid Lock's success. Adding insult to injury, though, the veteran violated Fangio's most sacrosanct mantra for 2021: cut out the giveaways.
Through four practices, Bridgewater has now turned the ball over thrice while Lock has yet to give it away even once. That, my friends, is what you call separation — even if Fangio is reluctant to say so less than a week into training camp.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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