The white-hot question in the Mile High City this year has been just how the Denver Broncos' new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will gel with second-year QB Drew Lock. So far during training camp, things have been going well with Lock’s development and even Peyton Manning, who watched Friday's practice, likes what he's seen.
Working hard behind the scenes on the finer points of installing an offense that will maximize the natural talents of the strong-armed Lock has been at the forefront of Shurmur's thoughts. The Broncos' OC gave fans a progress report of sorts on how it goes with Lock as the team crams a new offensive install in amid training camp.
“I think he’s done a good job, from an installation standpoint,” Shurmur said following Sunday's practice. “He’s doing a really good job of knowing what the concept is and going out there and executing.”
What’s clear from several of Lock’s more splashy plays during camp is that Shurmur seems to be comfortable with his QB showcasing his athletic ability and an aggressive mindset. It’s quite a shift from the anemic and pedantic offensive philosophies that have held the Broncos back in recent years. But make no mistake; the long ball is back on the menu in Denver — and why shouldn't it be with dynamic wideouts like Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy in the fold?
“There are times – and this is part of his nature – I call them 60-yard check downs, where he can break out of the pocket and keep his eyes downfield,” Shurmur revealed. “He does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, which I think is part of being youthful. It’s him trying to continue to make plays. Sometimes your biggest plays come on scrambles because it’s not always perfect. I think he’s doing a good job there.”
Letting the mobility and arm talent of a young quarterback shine through an offense is a tricky balancing act that only experienced and flexible coaches like Shurmur feel comfortable doing. Shurmur recognizes the difficulties quarterbacks can have in handling the jump from the college to the pro game.
“The details and the tactics of things – I think he’s getting better with all that,” Shurmur admitted. “Quite frankly, for guys that come out of the no huddle operations – it’s sad to say, but just working under center and being in the huddle calling a play... In the old days, that’s all we did. We played under center, and we called plays in the huddles. When they come out of college sometimes, they’re looking at cards, they get one word and they rarely have an alternative snap count. Even though he’s done a good job with that, those are the things that he’s constantly working on.”
Shurmur and Lock working tightly together on his development bodes well for a longer career path in the NFL, especially combined with the expertise of QBs coach Mike Shula. Laying down those solid foundations will, however, have to be squeezed into a smaller window this time around without any warm-up preseason games.
Shurmur pointedly observed just how frantically the Broncos are having to microwave this year's offensive installs, comparing where the unit would be if it were a traditional year. Lock's experience in learning new schemes on the fly seems to be a true attribute and blessing thus far.
“I think we’re working hard," Shurmur said. "This was our eighth practice together. Typically, your eighth OTA is somewhere back in the spring. I feel really good about how all our players embraced the Zoom portion of the year. I feel good about their attention to detail and their ability to learn. When we go out to practice, we compete. There’s always mistakes in practice, but I rarely see the same mistake twice which is good."
For now, the Broncos are leaning on the combination of youthful talent and football IQ the team has under center and the grizzly old teacher guiding him.