Given his performance, it’s hard to believe that P.J. Locke had never started an NFL game before Week 8 of this year. Though Locke had previously appeared in over 50 games for the Denver Broncos, he’d been primarily confined to special teams. 

However, Kareem Jackson’s suspensions have presented Locke with more defensive snaps. Not only has he capitalized on the opportunity, but he’s solidified himself as a prominent playmaker for this team.

Growing up in Texas

P.J. Locke hails from Beaumont, TX, where he attended and played football as a three-year starter at Central High School. For his performance, he was named a finalist for the 2014 Defensive Willie Ray Smith Award, which recognizes the top high school player in the Beaumont area. Coming out of high school, 247Sports ranked him as the No. 25 safety in the county.

Initially committing to the University of Oregon, Locke made a switch and opted for the University of Texas. His freshman year saw him in action in 12 games, starting once, tallying 14 tackles (10 solo), including a tackle for loss, a pass breakup (PBU), and a forced fumble. The following season, Locke appeared in all 12 games, starting nine.

Voted as a captain in his junior year, Locke’s season was cut short due to injury. Despite this, he was able to return for the 2017 Texas Bowl. He came back strong in his senior year, showcasing his peak performance. Locke achieved a career-high 77 total tackles (57 solo), in addition to two forced fumbles, an interception, and four passes defended.

Throughout his four-year tenure as a Longhorn, Locke played in 47 games, starting in 31, accumulating 163 tackles (116 solo), 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, 15 PD, four FF, and one FR.

Started From the Bottom

P.J. Locke wasn’t selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, landing him as an undrafted free agent. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed him shortly after, but during the last roster cuts, he was waived on August 31.

Four months later, the Denver Broncos added Locke to their practice squad on December 17. He persisted with the team through the offseason and training camp. Despite Denver releasing him just before Week 1, they swiftly re-signed him to the practice squad the next day.

Locke’s NFL debut came in Week 1 when the Broncos promoted him to the active roster. Although he was reverted back to the practice squad the next day, he was permanently elevated to the active roster on September 24, 2020.

For the better part of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Locke primarily contributed on special teams. He saw a slight increase in defensive snaps in 2022.

Beginning the 2023 season on the Injured Reserve, Locke returned in Week 5. He stepped in for Kareem Jackson following his ejection in Week 7 against the Greenbay Packers. Locke helped seal Denver’s victory with an interception. Following Jackson’s suspension, Locke’s first NFL start came the next week in the Broncos’ win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Though Jackson returned, he was immediately suspended again. It was Locke again who was called to step in in his absence.

While the Los Angeles Chargers have struggled this season, they still have plenty of offensive weapons. With playoff hopes still remaining, Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Broncos. In order to do so, the Broncos can’t allow the Chargers to convert large plays and must cause turnovers. With an interception and forced fumble already under his belt, Locke has proven to be a guy who can shut down and shift momentum.