The Denver Broncos kicked off the weekend by hosting their entire rookie class. From the team's 10 draft picks to the 11 college free agents signed, head coach Vic Fangio was pleased to meet everyone in-person and hold some organized team activities in the flesh.
These OTAs are no longer a football function that coaches take for granted after losing them entirely last year due to the pandemic and the NFLPA now maneuvering to boycott them in hopes of getting them eliminated forever.
One of the most anticipated competitions this summer at UCHealth Training Center will be at the quarterback position with the incumbent Drew Lock squaring off against the veteran threat Teddy Bridgewater. We heard from Fangio around the NFL draft that the team plans to split the QB reps evenly among Lock and Bridgewater.
Will Lock be given the benefit of taking that first snap with the team as the incumbent who led the offense in 2020? On Friday, Fangio further elucidated on the subject as he held court with local media via Zoom.
“That will be day by day," Fangio said. "It’s totally 50-50. Maybe I’ll flip a coin to see who takes the absolute first snap of the offseason and training camp (said with a rueful smile)."
As the flow of practices unfolds, there might be days that Lock garners more reps than Bridgewater and vice versa.
"By the end of day, meaning by the end of training camp—before those guys make the decision for us with their play—it’s going to be a 50-50 proposition," Fangio said. "Some days, some guy might get more [snaps] than the other. Then it will even out the next day or a few days later. It’s not going to be 50-50 every day, but over the course of this offseason and training camp it will be.”
Many will question the wisdom of taking any first-team reps away from Lock as he enters Year 3 coming off a season that was significantly truncated and curtailed by the pandemic, a new offensive coordinator, and an injury to his throwing shoulder. Those factors significantly inhibited Lock's second year development but unfortunately for him, the L.A. Chargers' first-round pick Justin Herbert came out of the box and lit up the league after facing two of those same three obstacles Lock did.
That QB contrast (I call it QB envy) only made some Broncos fans and media all the more impatient for Lock to so showcase similar signs of warp-speed development like Herbert. That fickle mindset led to an epic upswell of criticism and negativity when Lock's play dipped low after returning from his shoulder injury.
The embattled QB stabilized, however — a fact those afflicted with 'Lock Derangement Syndrome' ignore — as he turned a corner from Week 11 on. Lock's No. 1 wideout Courtland Sutton touched on the patience issue and the value of his QB getting reps in a conversation with KOARadio earlier this week.
“You can tell that he’s understanding the game even more,” Sutton told Broncos Country Tonight. “I think a lot of people slept on the patience part of it. He’s so close. I firmly believe he’s needed the reps and needs the reps.”
If you're the Broncos' brass, it's kind of a tough spot to be in. On one hand, you want Lock — the young QB you've invested a lot into (including time) — to get as many reps as possible, while on the other, you want him to feel some true competitive anxiety. Competition is the crucible that brings out the best in people.
The only way to manufacture competitive anxiety is to take a portion of one guy's reps and give them to another. For whatever Lock may lose out on in a 50/50 rep split, the team is hoping the refiner's fire of a true competition will compensate for those losses and help unlock something new.
Bridgewater is a veteran and a former first-round pick. He will push Lock, most definitely.
Time will tell whether the Broncos are making the right decision in taking valuable reps away from Lock. But at bottom, even Lock stans know the team can't afford any altruistic pursuits in the wake of five straight seasons (four of which were sub-.500) of missing the playoffs.
The NFL is a production-based business and if Lock wants staying power in Denver, he'll have to manufacture results and fast. His window for proving he can be a franchise-caliber NFL QB is closing rapidly and this will be his last chance.
What does a back-against-the-wall Drew Lock look like? Does he crumble or rise above? We'll find out soon enough.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!