Pat Shurmur's Offensive Strategy Thus Far Doesn't Fit Drew Lock

Luke Patterson

The Denver Broncos' offense is bad. How bad? 

The Broncos are currently ranked No. 28 in total offense in the NFL. Denver is also one of five teams in the bottom tier of the NFL that score approximately 19 points or more (NE, WASH, NYG, NYJ). 

The play-calling from offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been poor and the performance of starting quarterback Drew Lock has regressed over the last two weeks. So far in 2020, it's been the same ol' story for Denver — a decent defense, terrible special teams, and a bad offense.

While Shurmur’s spread offense was brought to Denver to develop Lock into a franchise QB, it’s had the opposite effect. When Lock operates from under center, it’s a tell-tale sign that an inside hand-off or power run is coming. 

In shotgun, the second-year signal-caller ‘locks’ (no pun intended) onto his first read, eliminating half of the field from his vision. Even more bizarre, it seems like the deep throws on go-routes, where Lock has completed less than 20% of his attempts, have become a stale habit of the offense. 

The Broncos' vertical passing attack is the equivalent of a homerun hitter swinging away at the same pitch repeatedly but missing time after time. This offense just isn’t working.

In three-wide receiver sets, Denver continues to be a disaster, relinquishing 13 sacks, while throwing 10 interceptions, and losing three fumbles, while only scoring three touchdowns. Rather than effectively utilizing the deep talent at the tight end position, or the running backs in the passing game, Shurmur is determined to keep throwing up Hail Marys, for lack of a better term.

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Denver is -8 in the turnover differential, which is the second-worst in the NFL only to Dallas (-13). So, when Lock is completing less than 53% of his passes, it becomes glaringly evident that something is wrong with the Broncos' offense. The offense isn’t stagnant, it's getting worse.

While Lock hasn’t done himself any favors by pressing and turning the ball over, offensive adjustments need to be made. Over the last two weeks, Lock has gone 34-of-64 for 443 yards and zero passing touchdowns, with four interceptions, while being sacked five times. 

His sloppy footwork and inability to go through his progressions have largely led to this decline in play since returning from injury against the New England Patriots in Week 6. 

Opposing defenses know that if they dial up blitz packages, they’ll force Lock into ill-advised throwing scenarios. Lock’s already prone to drifting out of the pocket and is clearly rattled when facing pressure. In ideal circumstances with competent pass protection, Lock’s happy feet and lack of field vision allow defenses to tee-off on the Broncos' QB.

Let’s be honest; the fact of the matter is, quarterbacks work when offenses fit them and are tailored to their strengths. Shurmur should take a page out of former ex-OC Rich Scangarello’s playbook last year and empower Lock through various personnel groupings that feature multiple tight end sets. 

Lock was most effective in 2019 throwing on rollouts and bootlegs outside of the pocket. At times last year, it felt like Scangarello was directly telling Lock where his hot routes and reads were pre-snap.

Surely Shurmur’s extensive NFL play-calling and coaching experience can better assist the sophomore QB. Inserting simple high-low reads and letting Lock run with the ball can pick up first downs and keep the defense guessing. 

Lock seems to be reading only half the field anyway, so why not play to that strength and get wideout Jerry Jeudy more involved? Jeudy’s role in the offense has diminished from approximately eight targets per game to four since Lock returned to the lineup.

If the Broncos' offense is going to improve, Shurmur needs to let go of what’s worked for him in the past with, say, Case Keenum and Daniel Jones. Lock has an entirely different skill-set, and there’s more than enough talent to move the football and be competitive every time Denver steps onto the field. 

If Shurmur doesn’t make the changes that are needed, the Broncos will head into another offseason wondering whether Lock is the answer at the most important position on the field, and whether he was given a large enough sample size with which to evaluate. 

Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP and @MileHighHuddle.

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Comments (13)
No. 1-10
Dick Hanky
Dick Hanky

They fired Scang even though him and Lock were getting something going at the end of the season. Shurmer is inflexible and stale, not to mention a slow learner.

Wyobronco
Wyobronco

This is right on.

Barney49
Barney49

Spot on. Drew Lock continues to look like at best a back up QB. He will lead no one to a championship. Another QB draft pick that is a failure. Someone other than John Elway needs to evaluate QB's in the future. His track record is woeful. Lock was not a top QB in his draft. Why Broncos had such high hope, I don't know. The QB search continues...

Studlee14
Studlee14

This is a chicken or the egg issue. Throwing deep balls constantly is more on Lock I believe than it is on Shurmur. Almosy every NFL playcall has a deep shot option, but its up to the quarterback to go through his reads and choose where he wants to throw it. Just because Lock throws the ball deep every play doesn't mean Shurmur is intentionally calling deep throws. I will say though that Shurmurs offense thus far isn't just about whether it fits Drew Lock... but it honestly hasn't been fitting the entire Broncos team. Not playing to players strengths, not scheming play makers open etc. Is that because of a lack of offseason for Shurmur to really see what he has?

Denverkewl
Denverkewl

Fangio should order Shurmur to game plan to Lock's strengths period. Stop the cute plays and let Lock settle in with the short middle game, play action and keep running the damn ball...Start Patrick, Jeudy, Hamler, Lindsay, Fant and Albert O and bench everyone else, including Melgo..cut or trade Desean and Vannett and roll with that...

JMoore7
JMoore7

Do not forget that this is Lock’s 6 OC in the last 6 years I believe. No offseason the speak of, Courtland Sutton goes down(best young WR in the game), Jeudy has been a typical up and down rookie. One is the issues I see as the biggest issue is Lock trying to make the big play all the time and not taking the easy 5-10yd completion. I would focus on getting Fant and Albert O 10-15 catches per game and I believe those mismatches would create more opportunities for Jeudy and Patrick more opportunities. I would also get Lindsey and Gordon in the game together often and use Gordon more as a receiver. It makes the defense dedicate a resource and will give Lindsay more space. We have to create ways to clear the box. Employing the TE’s and Gordon as a receiver will force that to happen. Then we can get creative with Lindsay and he is so dangerous in the open field.

Thats amore
Thats amore

Spot on article! Use these tight ends more!

elfish
elfish

I think people need to calm down about Lock.

  1. Lock has only played in nine NFL games and not all of them are complete games because he was injured during the game. In other words, he has the equivalent experience of an 8-grame rookie. You also have to figure that with the pandemic, he got much less coaching and practice time that typical rookie quarterback would get.

  2. For a comparison, look at John Elway. In John Elway's first year, he played eleven games and had horrible statistics.

Touchdowns = 7
Interceptions = 14
Completions Rate = 47.4%
Quarterback Ratings = 54.9

I remember after Elway's first season, people saying that Elway was a bust and we should get rid of him. Even Peyton Manning played poorly during his first season in the NFL.

It took Manning and Elway more than a year before they started playing up to their potential. Lock isn't even halfway there.

Trojan Ragz
Trojan Ragz

You can't keep saying lock has only played in 8 games because Herbert and burrow has done the same and is definitely out performing lock and if Herbert does it Sunday look for a new qb because the chargers and bengals have a worse roster but the qb makes all the difference and if you can't read defenses and take the easier throws you won't make it as a nfl starter

Choibake
Choibake

Thank you for this....now tell your colleague trickle


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