The Denver Broncos' quarterback situation remains a question mark, even when you set aside the rumors that Aaron Rodgers could be traded to the Mile High City in the not-too-distant future.
After all, last year's starter, Drew Lock, didn't have a good season overall, though he had his moments, and the veteran acquired via trade, Teddy Bridgewater, wasn't particularly good in Carolina either.
Some will point to the interception tallies the two had as a reason for concern, but some context is needed here. One metric that aims to provide that context is Football Outsiders' adjusted interceptions statistic.
Adjusted Interceptions: What it Means
The adjusted interception metric examines elements such as when a potential pick is dropped by a defender or broken up by a receiver, as well as situations in which a QB throws a pick because of a Hail-Mary attempt or a desperation throw in the final seconds of a game.
I will direct you to Football Outsiders about how they determine the adjusted interceptions statistic, but it does provide more context to how good a QB is in avoiding picks.
There are a couple of situations that adjusted interceptions don't account for, such as when a defender makes a great play on a ball (though that can be subjective) and when a receiver doesn't run a proper route (but that requires knowing the play call and where the receiver was supposed to go).
Still, it does put Lock and Bridgewater into clearer context relative to how prone they were or weren't to turning over the ball.
Lock, of course, tied for the league lead last year with Carson Wentz with 15 interceptions. However, Lock's adjusted interception total puts him at 16 while Wentz goes to 21.
Lock had five potential interceptions that defenders dropped, but one came on a late fourth-quarter drive in which he had to make quick throws. He also had one interception that was tipped by a receiver into a defender's hands, plus two interceptions on late fourth-quarter drives or Hail-Mary situations.
Wentz, meanwhile, had seven potential interceptions that were dropped or broken up, plus one in a late-game situation.
Lock vs. Bridgewater
Bridgewater had 11 interceptions but had seven potential picks that were dropped or broken up, and none came in a late-game situation. In other words, Bridgewater wasn't as careful with the ball as it appears at first glance, so he isn't a clear upgrade over Lock in that respect.
There were other QBs who escaped more picks than they might have otherwise had. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger led all QBs in most dropped or broken-up picks with 10, and Arizona's Kyler Murray, Chicago's Nick Foles, and then-Jets' Sam Darnold were tied for second with nine.
Lock's adjusted interception rate puts him at the same number as Indianapolis' Philip Rivers (now retired) and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, both of whom had a fair number of dropped or broken-up picks, plus Jackson had one interception resulting from a pass a wide receiver tipped to a defender. (Rivers had one pass tipped by a wideout, too, but the defender dropped it.)
On the surface, Lock's interception tally wasn't a good thing, and while the adjusted interception rate doesn't make it look better — it does provide context that other QBs were fortunate to not have their pick tallies higher than they could have been otherwise.
With that said, additional context matters, such as completion percentage and passing touchdowns. Lock had a completion rate of 57.3% and a touchdown tally of 16 — both numbers that need to improve if he's going to prove he's Denver's long-term guy.
Of course, receivers who drop catchable passes can be an issue, too. All of this requires going back to look at game film (as Football Outsiders did for adjusted interceptions) to get the necessary context about what happened on each play.
The adjusted interception metric makes it clear that, while Lock needs improvement, there were plenty of QBs who didn't play as well as it first appears. For example, turn Murray's adjusted rate into an actual interception tally, and he has 26 touchdowns to 20 picks.
Do the same for Roethlisberger and he goes to 33 touchdowns with 20 picks while Darnold goes to nine touchdowns and 19 picks.
Regardless, it's clear Lock needs to show improvement if he is going to be the long-term guy. But the adjusted interception tally is a reminder that, when evaluating Lock, Bridgewater, or any other QB, context matters — and that means watching each play and understanding the situation.
Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMorrisSports.
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