The NFL Draft is approximately one month away, and the Denver Broncos are expected to supercharge Pat Shurmur’s new offense for second-year quarterback Drew Lock.
In the remaining five games of 2019, Lock proved through a 4-1 record that the agonizing quarterback carousel in Denver is over. His rookie campaign concluded with a 64.1 completion percentage, 1,020 yards passing, seven touchdowns, three interceptions, and 72 yards rushing.
Lock’s rookie year in the NFL could only be described as a roller coaster. After being projected to be a first-round quarterback, he fell to the second round of the draft where the Broncos would trade up to select him with No. 42 overall pick.
Fast forward to training camp and Lock was building momentum to potentially win the backup job behind Joe Flacco, only to suffer a thumb injury in the preseason that kept him sidelined for 10 weeks.
While recovering, Lock made the most of his time by studying defensive coverages and improving his lower body mechanics and footwork. When asked about Lock’s preparation, head coach Vic Fangio said, "He really used those 10 weeks he was off to his advantage. I think he learned more about the NFL, learned more about playing quarterback in the NFL, all the things that go with playing quarterback in the NFL. Whereas I think in training camp he was a little bit inundated with everything, and I think those 10 weeks were really beneficial to him.”
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Once activated, Lock made it clear that he would not surrender his starting position. After being embraced by teammates in the locker room, Lock could be seen celebrating with his offensive line after touchdowns or rapping on the sideline.
Super Bowl 50 MVP and teammate Von Miller went as far to call Lock a “f***ing rockstar” in the regular season. Lock’s personality and demeanor have definitively caffeinated his team, and the fan base. But as a rookie only playing five games at the end of the season, Lock will need to embrace a leadership role in 2020.
At Missouri, Lock immediately earned the starting quarterback position as a true freshman playing in all 12 games, throwing for 1,332 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. As the playing field changed from the high school preps to the NCAA, Lock showed his sophomore year that he embraced the competition.
As a sophomore, Lock threw for 3,399 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He would start all four years at Missouri, amassing 12,193 yards with 99 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. While the transition from high school to college is drastically different than jumping from college to the pros, Lock has shown dramatic improvements each year in his game.
To conclude the 2019 season, first-year OC Rich Scangarello was relived of play-calling duties and Fangio hired Pat Shurmur to run the Broncos' offense and assist Lock’s development.
While this coming season will be the first year that Lock and Shurmur work together, the transition is expected to produce winning results. Shurmur has extensive play-calling experience in the NFL working for the Eagles, Browns, Rams, Vikings and Giants.
As head coach of the Giants last season, Shurmur’s offense operated under rookie quarterback and 2019 first-rounder (6th overall) Daniel Jones. In 13 games, Jones logged a 61.9 completion percentage, 3,027 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. While Jones had a significantly larger sample size than Lock, it’s evident that Shurmur caters to his quarterbacks’ strengths.
Mike Shula was hired as the Broncos quarterback’s coach in January and was in attendance for Lock’s Missouri pro day last March. Both Shurmur and Shula studied Lock extensively prior to the 2019 draft and are familiar with his style of play.
Because of this, Lock should naturally feel more comfortable in an offense that resembles his playing days at Missouri. The meat and potatoes of Shurmur’s offense comes in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) so that the defense is spread wide across the field.
Speed kills in the NFL. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs. Because the NFL is a copycat league, expect the Broncos to bolster the wider receiver position in the 2020 draft for Lock.
Lock’s ability to buy time from pass rushes and his ability to scramble already make him a threat to defenses in short-yardage scenarios. Not because he’s the next Michael Vick, but because he’s consistently looking downfield with his eyes and has a rocket arm.
In Shurmur’s offense, Lock should demonstrate improved accuracy and placement on deep routes. The spread offense will allow Lock to exploit one-on-one mismatches for Pro Bowl WR Courtland Sutton on the perimeter and attack the seam of the field with second-year TE Noah Fant.
RB Phillip Lindsay will also be featured in the passing game from the backfield, forcing defenses to reveal their hand during pre-snap motions. In essence, Shurmur’s spread offense will force defenses to consistently reallocate personnel based on Lock’s reads and delivery.
Consequently, Lock will be able to settle into his new playbook and begin to manipulate defenses with his intellect and implementation of the weekly game plan.
In the NFL, there’s a theory based off the success and emergence of rookie stars. That theory suggests that the second year of playing professional football hardly adheres to the success of the first.
The 2020 offseason has been the first since 2015 that the Broncos won't need to worry about pursuing a new starting QB. Instead, GM John Elway seems hell-bent on supplying his quarterback with playmakers at the wide receiver position.
For Lock, the 2020 offseason is yet another opportunity to advance his maturation and skill-set as a quarterback in the NFL.