On Friday, a familiar face visited Denver Broncos HQ to observe and analyze practice alongside Hall-of-Famer, and host of the team's new show Training Camp Live, Steve Atwater. It came as no surprise that Peyton Manning would choose to focus on his old position, sharing his voluminous insights on the Broncos' new signal-caller Drew Lock.
“I think he’s got a little swagger to him,” Manning told Atwater during the live broadcast. “He’s got a little edge to him, which I think is important. It’s a tough position… to have a little swagger to you is a good thing.”
Lock’s five-game audition last year in which he helped the lead the Broncos to a 4-1 finish sold the team's key decision-makers on his worthiness for the job heading into 2020. Much of the confidence he engendered in the team brass was due to his swagger — or 'it' factor — as much as his right arm.
During this past offseason, Lock said and did all the right things amid a pandemic as he grows into his role as a key leader of a young team. Training camp has provided the testing ground and the competition of executing against a talented defense that Manning believes is perfect for Lock to further learn and develop.
“I think Drew will benefit from competing against this Vic Fangio—style of defense every day in practice,” Manning explained.
The importance of getting these training camp reps under his belt has increased since the NFL opted to cancel all four preseason games. Going into only his second year, and first as the undisputed starter, the challenges facing the 23-year-old Lock are even more daunting as a result.
Manning is of the opinion that the Broncos will have to be patient and adapt to their young quarterback as the season gets going.
“I’m a quarterback defender, so I’d say, let’s understand that it won’t be perfect early on,” Manning said. “Things will get better as the season goes along… I still think you can win games as you’re finding your way.”
GM John Elway has furnished Lock with plenty of new, speedy weapons to do some real damage to opponents. Seeing first-round wideout Jerry Jeudy dazzle in practice has got pulses racing and optimism growing, but for Lock’s own long-term development, expectations will have to be handled with care.
“Now, I think we can get better throughout the season," Manning said. "We need our defense to keep us in it as our offense finds our rhythm."
With a new offensive coordinator comes a new scheme that Lock is learning. Naturally, it's going to take time for Pat Shurmur and Lock to gel and get on the same page. With no OTAs or preseason, that period of getting to know each other could be protracted.
Fortunately, Lock is no stranger to learning a new scheme on the fly, and Shurmur's spread-oriented system is one Lock knows well, having mastered a similar offense during his years at Missouri. Still, as Manning alludes, the defense might have to carry the load early on during Lock and company's buffering period.
Many national pundits are now waking up to the buzz that is surrounding the Broncos and their confident, young leader. Manning is definitely onboard with the positive vibes as well. Something in the air.
“I think we can have a heck of a team,” Manning enthused.
Broncos Country will be hoping that Manning’s deep-rooted football knowledge is on the money once again, and that his insights on Lock hold true. There will be trial-and-error and setbacks but as The Sheriff opined, if this team is as talented as it appears to be, those pitfalls shouldn't preclude the Broncos from stacking some wins in the standings.