New offense means growing pains for Broncos, Drew Lock

Drew Lock in practice on Aug. 24. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.
Drew Lock in practice on Aug. 24. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.

Of all the things to be excited about for this new season, watching quarterback Drew Lock may be at the top of the list for Broncos fans.

Lock is the quarterback of 2020, and if things go right, he’ll be the quarterback of the future for an organization searching for a leader at the position since 2015. After going 4-1 as a starter last season, the expectations coming from Broncos fans are sky-high, but they may want to pump the breaks a bit.

Consider this: As a rookie, Lock didn’t see the field until Week 13 and while he went 4-1, those wins were mostly pushed by an emergent defense. While he showed off great mobility, a strong arm and a willingness to make high-risk, high-reward throws, Lock was only mediocre in three starts and awful in a fourth. He was superb in the win over Houston, although he did throw a silly pick in the end zone in that game, too.

Look, he’s young and inexperienced. To expect him to be a star in Year 2 would be folly. And that’s not just because quarterback is the most difficult position to play in American sports, but because now he’s learning his second offense at the NFL level.

The change from Rich Scangarello’s bland attack to Pat Shurmur’s offense was a smart move by the front office. But, to forecast the transition to go smoothly for an extremely young offense would be to expect too much.

Seven players who will have an important impact on this offense are in their third year or less in the league, with Lloyd Cushenberry and Jerry Jeudy being rookie starters. And even Lock, while playing last year, is basically still a rookie due to his lack of experience.

This year in training camp, Lock’s been up-and-down throughout, with a tough practice on Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.

“You know what I think is awesome is that Drew gets down on himself because he’s competitive,” fellow second-round 2019 draft pick Dalton Risner said of Lock on Saturday. “To Drew, I let him know, I’m like, ‘Dude, no one is worried about you. We know you’re working your tail off. We know you’re our guy. You had a bad day. Let’s improve from it, let’s move on.’”

Just like we’ve been hearing all training camp long that Lock is being a great leader to his teammates, we see Risner has his back here, too.

For all those young teammates, learning a new offense is difficult. For the quarterback, the complications of understanding the ins and outs of an offense are ratcheted up a level.

On Saturday, it sounds like Lock didn’t just struggle within the plays, but he was having a tough time with the play calls, too.

“For the most part, yes—we had some struggles the other day at the stadium getting the correct calls made,” head coach Vic Fangio said. “We had a delay of game once. We seem to have one or two a practice. That’s not good enough, really. We can’t—it’s hard enough to move the ball and score points in the league. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”

While the Broncos are undoubtedly more stacked on offense than they have been in the past — with Jeudy, Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton and more — it would be ill-advised to believe they’ll be an elite attack in 2020. There will be struggles, not just from Lock but other youthful, key players, especially without preseason games to help get them tuned up.

Kickoff is scheduled for less than two weeks from today, on Monday, Sept. 14 at 8:10 p.m. MT in the Mile High City.

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