The players inside the Denver Broncos locker room can feel it. Be it the veterans, or the rookies, the Broncos can feel the momentum building for Drew Lock.
“I like Drew. I’m excited to see him play whenever he gets the opportunity," cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. said on Tuesday. "I know everybody in Broncos Country is calling for him to play, but it’s up to coach and [John] Elway and when everybody thinks he’s ready."
Guys like Harris are on the inside, seeing how events are unfolding and watching Lock's workload and share of the offensive reps begin to grow. Plus, they've all been around long enough to know that quarterbacks who get drafted in rounds one or two are selected to play. It's only a matter of time.
The question on the minds of the Broncos' brass, and the players, is this; is Lock ready for the opportunity and responsibility of being the starting quarterback?
"I’ve talked to Drew; Drew thinks he’s ready, so that’s good right there coming from the player," Harris said. "You want him to feel confident and know that he’s ready to go. From talking to him, he seems like he’s ready.”
For what it's worth, Lock himself feels like he's more than ready for the opportunity. He has communicated that up the chain to his offensive coaches, head coach Vic Fangio and likely all the way up to GM John Elway.
"As far as me actually thinking I’m ready, that first week was a kind of a trial run, getting my feet back underneath me, feeling out the game a little bit," Lock said on Wednesday from the locker room. "The second week was like alright I’m going to act like the week after this next week then I would come in and play. Then I felt good after that week. I felt like if needed I would be able to come in. I would be able to compete. I would be able to complete balls. That comes with how confident I am with the base I have right now and just the little things I’ve been working on.”
The players, especially the skill-position guys who stand to benefit from catching passes from a dynamic quarterback with the type of arm talent Lock possesses, recognize the potential teeming within the rookie signal-caller. They can sense his confidence.
“A lot about his arm strength and his confidence," wideout Tim Patrick said on Tuesday. "His confidence is through the roof. He’s going to be a baller for sure.”
But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. One of the first orders of business for Lock, once he assumes the role of starter, will be to establish a connection with his No. 1 wide receiver and make it a priority to get him the ball.
For his part, Courtland Sutton sees what Patrick and everyone else sees. But the talented young wideout knows that when it comes to whether Lock can play at this level and be this team's future franchise QB, it can only be proven on the field of play.
“Facts. That’s definitely what it is,” Sutton said on Wednesday.
Lock appreciates everyone's support, both inside and outside the building.
“First off, thanks, Tim and Chris," Lock said. "That means a lot especially coming from those two guys because you watch Tim, he’ll make five or six plays a game when the ball’s in the air to him and you’re super confident when it comes to him. It means a lot from him, and especially Chris. If any quarterback gets a compliment from one of the best defensive backs in the league, you should feel pretty good about yourself. It makes me feel good.”
One thing's certain. Lock is champing at the bit to play. That 10-week exile h endured gave him a unique case of football cabin fever.
“It gets to the point where you can’t take not doing anything anymore," Lock said. "That hit me about four weeks ago to where I was like, 'I’m going to push through for a couple weeks'. Now it’s at the point where I’m getting a little antsy."
On the heels of a horrendous performance by QB Brandon Allen on the road in Buffalo, the Broncos know the time has come to pass the torch and see what the rookie second-rounder can do. He was on ice for more than two months but these last couple weeks have allowed Lock to shake off the rust and bring that competitor back to the surface.
Odds are, Lock is going to get a five-game audition to prove himself to his teammates, and to the decision-makers in the front office and on the coaching staff. Lock wants to ensure that quarterback is taken off the Broncos' big board when the 2020 NFL Draft rolls around and instead, have the team use its resources to 'build the nest', as it were, around him as the 'understood' quarterback (to use Joe Flacco's verbiage).
“I want to try and build this into something special for sure," Lock said. "I want to be able to give the confidence every single week to my teammates and to the people upstairs that if we ride into this in the offseason after these however many games it takes until I get started then we’re going to have an awesome offseason coming into next season. Hopefully I end up being here for a long time.”
For now, Lock will see his share of the first-team practice reps increase from 25% to 75%. If he shows well during this week's practice sessions, the road will be wide-open for him to make his NFL debut as a Broncos starter on Sunday vs. the L.A. Chargers.