The Denver Broncos quarterback competition remains in a deadlock heading into their first preseason game.
Head coach Vic Fangio stated early and often this competition would be a 50-50 battle. So far, the Broncos’ head boss has been a man of his word, as both Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater have gotten an even split of repetitions behind center.
The competition has shown that both quarterbacks have worked hard to improve their deficits.
Their progress has done nothing but bring them closer to one another, muddying the waters about who the quarterback will be in Week 1 of the regular season.
As each practice ends, the conversation about who is the right player for the team begins over and over again. However, Fangio has stated that a large part of the decision will be dependant on the performance of his quarterbacks in their preseason action.
That aligns with Fangio calling the race “even-steven” earlier this week, as the team prepared for joint practices against the Minnesota Vikings. Through a full offseason of OTAs, mini-camp, and training camp practices neither Lock nor Bridgewater has pulled away from the other in competition.
That’s not to say that the two quarterbacks are playing poorly though. When asked about the quarterback competition offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur praised both quarterbacks.
“I’ve seen both guys getting better,” Shurmur said. “This is the best version of Drew that I’ve seen.”
As for Bridgewater, Shurmur believes he’s seen sustained improvement during his time with the team.
“I think he’s done a good job. I think he’s built on all the good work he did in the spring.”
With the up-and-down nature of the competition, charting which player is leading the race seems to be more frustrating than helpful.
Shurmur added a warning for anyone keeping a daily scorecard. Denver’s offensive coordinator reminded Broncos Country that only the team knows the focal points of the practice. Our perception of who is “winning” the competition can be wrong without the context of route concepts or tactical design behind each practice rep.
Charting the results of the competition may be a fruitless effort, but we can still make important observations as to the development of both players.
The incumbent, Lock has made progress this offseason. Overall he has remained safer with the ball throughout camp than he had been in prior action. Additionally, Lock continues to show the ability to be a “shot player.”
Drew Lock shows good patience and fundamentals in the pocket. Then delivers an absolute 💣 on a dime to Courtland Sutton. pic.twitter.com/tT7KgxcGNo
— Patricia's Son (@Dr_NManning) August 9, 2021
Meanwhile, Bridgewater has been as advertised. He has commanded the huddle and provided his teammates with a leader on the field.
The former Panther’s starter continues to develop rapport with his teammates leading to more work downfield. At a minimum, he has against the perception of him as a conservative quarterback just a tad, so far in camp.
What Teddy has done in practice has been consistent. Though he hasn't aired it out consistently, he has show he can drop it in a bucket and throw with good accuracy and anticipation. pic.twitter.com/OKl4xGNwN6
— Patricia's Son (@Dr_NManning) August 9, 2021
Even though the play of both quarterbacks has been good enough to show that this offense should be improved, it is not enough to decide on a trigger man.
Each player has performed well enough to not lose the job, but not well enough for the winner to be obvious.
Again, this shouldn’t be cause for doom and gloom. Fangio and Shurmur felt comfortable enough to place both Lock and Bridgewater into a competition, believing either could help the team win.
That’s a lot of faith to instill in those two quarterbacks, considering Fangio and Shurmur enter the season on the hot seat.
Who the coaching staff ends up giving the job to, might be a case of beauty lying within the eye of the beholder.
Do the coaches want a guy who has been more consistent over his career, despite the fact that Bridgewater’s lower-variance play could lead to a less dynamic offense? Or, do the coaches believe in a young quarterback with a tremendous skill set that has yet to show he can be trusted game-in and game-out?
Many believe the steadiness of Bridgewater will help this team have a winning season. Yet, most do not believe he can lead to the team much further than that. Lock, on the other hand, may keep the team from reaching playoff contention with critical errors. He also could be the player who catches fire and pushes this team to a post-season victory.
When asking these questions, one must also bring the roster’s loaded defense into account. Is the defense good enough to overcome the turnovers Lock might create, justifying a riskier offensive approach? Or is this defense good enough to help the Broncos win 10-plus games, something they can’t afford to risk wasting on Lock?
If Fangio believes his job is at risk, he may play it safer. General manager George Paton has made no suggestion, through his actions or words, that Fangio is on the hot seat. So it also may be feasible Fangio has the security to take a risk on the 3rd-year quarterback.
Fangio plans to use all the time necessary to make the best decision possible, even if it takes the entire preseason.
In the end, if Lock plays well in the games expect the team to go with the incumbent. If his play remains inconsistent, look for the new addition to get his one last chance at being a starter in the NFL.