An important visitor was in attendance as the Denver Broncos held their seventh practice of training camp. On the doorstep of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, Peyton Manning was on site Wednesday to scrutinize how the Broncos' quarterback competition is shaping up.
For the past two offseasons, 'The Sheriff' assumed a mentorship role with Broncos QB Drew Lock, which seemed to increased in intensity this year, leading one to only assume the NFL's only five-time MVP still has a vested interest of sorts in the outcome.
In the full view of the legendary former Bronco, Lock threw a red-zone pass that was picked off by safety Justin Simmons. Broncos Country collectively let out a sigh as the 24-year-old's turnover issues reared up yet again.
It was an especially frustrating interception because Lock had been orchestrating a smooth two-minute drive downfield from his own 25-yard line before coughing the ball up as head coach Vic Fangio sounded the final horn to end the practice. Afterward, Lock admitted to feeling frustrated at what he described as a decision-making error.
“First off, take care of the ball. Don’t make that decision down there,” Lock said post-practice. “[I] was halfway between running and halfway between throwing. Just make a better decision.”
If Lock has an edge in his ongoing battle with veteran Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job, it’s having increased arm strength and mobility which lends itself to making more off-script plays. On this occasion, Lock paid the price for forcing the ball, and consequently, it concluded practice on a bum note for the offense.
Lock admitted he needed to dive back into the tape to fully divine what happened on the play and articulated just how tough the first- and second-string defensive units are to go against in practice.
“I think I need to start watching Justin Simmons tape on my free time, just to make sure nothing like that happens again,” Lock said ruefully. “Both our defenses are good."
Taking time to reflect on mistakes would be beneficial for the third-year signal-caller. Self-scouting always worked for Lock’s Hall-of-Fame-bound mentor. Seven days deep into camp, neither Lock nor Bridgewater has created a quantifiable separation between them, and that could be more worrying for the former than the latter.
Lock’s post mortem sounds like it could cause him some sleepless nights, but it could provide fans with the first meaningful sign that he's starting to feel the pressure of this competition. Lock's tone shifted to one of introspection when elaborating on the aftermath of throwing that interception to Simmons.
“It does sting. We’re going to go learn and we’re going to go watch it," Lock said. "It’s more of those dudes getting to go in the locker room and give you a little slap [on the butt]. We have to wait two days until we can come out here and get me one. They get the better of you, and that’s that. You have to take it like a man and go in there with a smile on your face and say, ‘Hey, good play.’
Lock will live to fight another day but there are only so many such practices left in the balance before big mistakes that lead to a turnover, like the one that ended Day 7's practice, could decide the young gunslinger's fate for him. As the Broncos enjoy what remains of their off-day, it'll be interesting to see whether Lock rebounds on Friday when the cleats hit the grass at UCHealth Training Center.
Keep it locked with Mile High Huddle as we have Luke Patterson at Broncos camp daily to report on how this team is coming together.
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