Headlines from the future: How will Drew Lock’s 2021 season go?

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) looks to pass in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Empower Field at Mile High.
Nov 22, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) looks to pass in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This is a tremendously important matter that requires your utmost attention.

Back on May 13th of this year, a mysterious portal opened at the Mile High Sports office.

We have tried to send items through the portal, and even enter it ourselves, though to no avail. After much experimentation, we have determined that this is a gateway into the future.

However, this doorway is severely limited.

Any attempt we’ve made to send items or people through the gateway has been a failure, as the portal seems to only operate in one direction. Items can only exit the gateway, and so far, the only items we’ve seen pass through come from seemingly random points in the future between the present day and the year 2055, which is when all communication is seemingly cut-off between us and the future.

Another wrinkle: The only items we’ve received thus far have been random Broncos columns. At first, this may seem like a useless purpose for the first concrete use of time travel, but when you really think about it, you can see the endless possibilities this enables.

Now, the pessimists among you might think, “Zach, clearly you’re just tired of writing the same-old prediction pieces and are merely using this time-portal premise as a way to creatively frame such a piece.”

But you couldn’t be further from the truth. This all couldn’t be any more real.

Now, without further ado, let’s look at how the future sees Drew Lock’s 2021 season going, in this first edition of “Headlines from the future.”

3 reasons Drew Lock deserves a fourth season

Leonard Murdoch, The Sentinel

Once again, the haters are coming out of the woodwork with torches and pitchforks in hand to unfairly brutalize our golden-armed, baby-faced gunslinger, Drew Lock.

They claim that the Broncos’ disappointing season, lackluster offensive performance despite impressive skill talent, and his ranking in the bottom of 10 of almost every major passing category are all Lock’s fault.

However, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Only a fool would blame Lock for Denver’s 8-9 season and pressure the team to find a new quarterback this offseason, instead of demanding Lock gets yet another go, as you will soon come to realize.

1.  Pat Shurmur failed him

Let’s get it out of the way right now. The offense was incredibly disappointing this season, that much is undeniable.

Given the talent at every position group, it’s unacceptable that this team ranked 25th in total offense and 23rd in both points scored and offensive DVOA.

Courtland Sutton returned from his ACL injury in great shape. His 2021 season might not have been quite on the level of his 2019 campaign, but he still made numerous big plays and jaw-dropping catches.

Noah Fant cemented his place among the NFL’s elite tight ends.

Tim Patrick continued to play like one of the league’s most reliable receivers and best No. 2 options, and easily the best No. 3 option as Jerry Jeudy’s star rose.

Speaking of, Jeudy played like a top 20 receiver, and some would even argue top 10 after he eclipsed 1,000 yards. K.J. Hamler broke out in his own right as a deadly returner who could occasionally deliver the opponent a crippling blow downfield.

Meanwhile, in the backfield, Melvin Gordon improved on his solid 2020 season and Javonte Williams looks to be a bell-cow back for years to come.

So, why was the offense so underwhelming? Who is to blame for the failure?

Pat Shurmur, who once again proved his archaic offensive philosophy and inability to cater his scheme towards the talents of his players, makes him one of the least effective offensive play-callers in the sport.

Entering the season, everyone knew that the Broncos had to place a greater emphasis on play action. While there was somewhat of a greater emphasis on play-action, they didn’t lean into it hard enough as the playcalling only improved from the 24th-highest rate of play-action to the 12th.

That’s not bad, but considering Lock has a greater disparity between his play-action and non-play-action snaps than any other quarterback in football, the Broncos should at least have a top-five rate of calling play-action.

2. Lock was running for his life the whole time

Although I strongly believe that Lock is both the present and the future at quarterback for the Broncos, there is no denying that he struggles quite a bit under pressure.

However, for any quarterback to succeed, they need an offensive coordinator with a mind as sharp as a razor, an offensive line that never allows pressure, and an absurdly gifted set of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

As Lock did not have those foremost two ingredients this season, he failed, and the Broncos paid dearly. But that failure is not on him, it’s purely on the play-caller and the offensive line.

It was clear from fairly early on in the season, that right tackle would be an issue throughout. Calvin Anderson had won the job in camp and played adequately, but he certainly allowed his fair share of pressures and had his struggles.

However, injuries soon turned the position into a revolving door, and Graham Glasgow’s play didn’t improve enough from 2020 to pick up the slack at right tackle.

To make matters worse, on Glasgow’s other side, center remained a problem. Lloyd Cushenberry III was definitely better than his rookie year, but he was still one of the league’s worst centers. He consistently allowed penetration and had a few fumbles on the quarterback-center exchange. Upon Cushenberry being benched, Meinerz showed some flashes that should give Broncos Country heading into 2022, but he looked every bit like a rookie out of a Division-III school.

3. The defense wasn’t dominant enough

The Broncos’ defense has elite players everywhere.

The secondary is unmatched. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson once again looked like the best safety tandem in the sport; Bryce Callahan continued to play like Chris Harris Jr. 2.0, though he was forced to miss some time with injury; Kyle Fuller played near a Pro Bowl level in his return to Fangio’s defense; Patrick Surtain II should have won Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Ronald Darby was elite for a No. 4 cornerback, even if he didn’t quite live up to the contract.

Von Miller put any worries about him ‘being washed’ to bed, as he secured yet another double-digit sack season, and Bradley Chubb saw similar production on his way to his second Pro Bowl appearance. Plus the defensive line terrorized quarterbacks all season long, creating dozens of additional opportunities for pressure.

Inside linebacker was somewhat mediocre again, though Justin Strnad looks to be a part Denver can build around for the foreseeable future.

With all that in mind, and a coaching staff headlined by Vic Fangio, how did this unit only finish as the NFL’s second-best defense?

Despite the incredible number of investments made on that side of the ball, Denver still couldn’t replicate their historic defense from 2015, putting Lock in an awful position.

Think about how unfair it is to expect Lock to win games with a No. 2 defense, instead of one that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the league. It’s immensely unfair.

For a quarterback to be successful, every single supporting piece around them must perform at an exceptionally high level. We can all agree that didn’t happen this season. Therefore, Lock must be given another try. We won’t know what he is until his surroundings are absolutely perfect.

End Transmission.