With no NFL Combine this year due to the pandemic, it is unknown what kind of information ‘insiders’ will get given the story of how loose lips (influenced by adult beverage consumption in downtown Indianapolis late into the night) have historically been the engine of offseason rumors.
Fortunately for the NFL news cycle, the Senior Bowl still happened this year. Although it’s still not a normal year, much of the NFL staff, coaches and media flocked to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for an entire week to watch senior draft prospects engage in games and drills, and exchange rumors and information on the 32 teams.
One of the informants who attended the Senior Bowl this year was Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline.
In a conversation earlier this week about the quarterback rumor mill, Pauline was asked what information she had obtained in Mobile about Drew Lock and the current situation of the Denver Broncos quarterback. Pauline’s response included some negative comments about Lock.
“I’ve heard everything from ‘people are not convinced of Drew Lock’ to ‘people are not convinced of Drew Lock’ … we know that Drew Lock has had flashes and has had its moments. He has also had many injuries. What I found out at the Senior Bowl is that the Denver Broncos had to thin the playbook, get things out of the playbook that Drew Lock can’t execute … They (the Broncos’ offensive coaching staff) almost had to ditch the playbook so Drew Lock can handle it. That is a big concern. “
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There had been rumors for some time about Lock’s mental acuity in absorbing Pat Shurmur’s playbook, but to be completely fair to the young quarterback, this was an extremely strange offseason in a whole new system (again). Setting up a West Coast Offense is historically difficult, and teams across the league have begun to “simplify” the playbooks to help their young quarterbacks get onto the field earlier to gain experience and grow in confidence.
If true, it is a huge concern. If the Broncos didn’t think Lock had the mental acumen to run the offense and had to adapt to make it work, but this is a two-way street between the offensive coaching staff and the quarterback.
Connecting a few points, the Broncos’ offense looked much more competent to close out the 2020 season. Was this due to Lock’s growth, or was it the schedule that saw Denver draw some of the worst passing defenses in the league?
Perhaps the Broncos ‘modest offensive improvement down the stretch was due to simplifying the coaches’ scheme so that Lock could handle it. Honestly, the truth probably includes a bit of everything, but just how far is the real question that new general manager George Paton and the Broncos need to answer.
Pauline would continue with Lock.
“This is basically the ‘you know what’ or the year of the boat for Drew Lock. People in the Senior Bowl basically feel like the Broncos are going to have to move on mainly because Drew Lock can’t handle a complex offense. “
The Broncos have already been shown to be involved in the quarterback market this offseason, calling out the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. The Broncos’ participation in the trade and what Paton offered varies depending on who you believe or ask, but the fact that Paton called means Denver is evaluating improvements at the quarterback position.
Lock is not out of a job (yet), but his position as the Broncos’ starting quarterback is anything but secure. While Pauline’s comments raise concerns about whether Lock can become the quarterback Denver needs to regain relevance in the AFC West, Pauline credited the Broncos’ process by selecting him in the 2019 draft.
Even if it doesn’t end up working, it’s hard to fault how Denver got Lock.
“The thing about Lock is that he was a good pick for the Denver Broncos. You can’t blame them. A lot of people, if you remember, were making fun of Drew Lock as one of the Denver Broncos’ top 10 picks, the Broncos made a couple of changes in that draft and ended up getting Drew Lock in the middle of round 2. In that At the moment it seemed like a fantastic selection. You can’t blame them for the selection if the quarterback doesn’t work or shows no signs of doing it, you’ll just have to move on. “
It doesn’t look like the Broncos are going to drop Lock just yet (barring a miraculous trade from Deshaun Watson or something as crazy as that), but it seems likely fans are looking down the barrel of another quarterback competition in 2021. Lock is a starter, but the Broncos will bring another viable option to compete with him.
Pauline suggested that Denver, among a few other teams, might be interested in former Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. Despite being the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, Trubisky never took off in Chicago, who now seems likely to move on. If Lock was a good process / bad result in drafting a quarterback, the Bears traded in a draft class with Watson and Patrick Mahomes. bad process/bad result.
Trubisky or other veteran coverage option like Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Lock would be a field battle that doesn’t move the needle much, but it could be the best process for Paton and the Broncos this offseason. Lock is still young and has the tools to succeed, but his footwork and mental processing are in question, much as they left Missouri.
If there are intelligence questions about Lock and his ability to handle an NFL playbook, the tools can only take him so far. You have to be able to master the mental side of the game.
Obviously, there are concerns about Lock’s future as a starting quarterback in Denver, but the book is not yet fully written. As Pauline said, this year is very likely to be a life and death situation for Lock in his third year in the NFL and he will have to earn his starting job.
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