It’s still early in training camp. It’s still early in training camp. It’s still early in training camp.
This is what I have to tell myself every day when watching Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock.
The Broncos second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft should one day be their starting quarterback, but that time may be farther away than some think. Lock has incredible God-given ability as a passer with his size, arm strength and proven leadership. However, he’s got plenty to work on and there seems to be little progress so far compared to what he showed on film and at the Reese’s Senior Bowl earlier this year.
Broncos fans should be excited about Lock, but he is going to frustrate them at times. In this article, I’ll tell you why.
Lock can make off-platform throws that a lot of quarterbacks can’t make. It’s cool to see him drop his arm and lower his release point to fit a pass around an oncoming defensive player. Lock can sidearm throws to get them to his target and he doesn’t need his feet set to do that.
I like that part of his game, but I don’t like that Lock tends to throw sidearmed just out of habit and not out of a need to get the ball out at a different angle. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio summed things up perfectly when talking about the potential of Lock as their quarterback of the future.
“I think a quarterback that can change his arm angles is a positive when it’s needed. I don’t think you want to do it when you don’t have to do it.” Fangio continued, “Obviously, if somebody’s in my face and I might have to do that, that’s good to have that talent. But if I’m here strong in the pocket, I want to throw over the top, nice and strong and not rely on side arm. It’s good that he can do that, but he needs to use it when he needs to not when he doesn’t need to.”
That’s exactly the sentiment I’ve had scouting Lock at the Senior Bowl and on tape before the 2019 NFL Draft. I love that he can sidearm passes, but he needs to do that when necessary and not out of bad habits or lazy mechanics.
Footwork Based on Preference
It seems like every time I’ve talked to Lock, we end up discussing the work he’s doing/done on his footwork. We discussed that at the Senior Bowl, at the Scouting Combine and after he was drafted by the Broncos. Lock knows cleaning up his footwork will make him a better passer, and he does not shy away from the work that must be done in that aspect of his game.
On Thursday, Lock explained how this coaching staff is teaching him pro footwork.
“My biggest thing is that our footwork is based on kind of your preference. There is a guidance on what exactly to do on your footwork.” Lock said.
It’s interesting to me that the Broncos are letting him take his own path with his feet, so long as he stays on track and maintains the timing of the play. Lock’s feet are not as a good as starter Joe Flacco’s. Every quarterback is different, but it is interesting to note how the team is not forcing Lock to have feet like Flacco.
The rookie quarterback spent time during the break after mandatory minicamp still honing his craft.
“I went back and they sent me home with tape on (Falcons QB) Matt (Ryan) and all the 49ers (QBs). I watched all that then went back through the playbook and tried to time up my footwork with the routes and all the different plays.” Lock continued, “So, really just debriefing back through the playbook and trying to match my footwork up with everything to help me play more smooth out here.”
Lock will put in the work, there is no doubt. But he still has a lot of work to do.
It’s difficult to evaluate quarterbacks coming out of college football. That’s a challenge I welcome as an evaluator who has worked for NFL/CFL teams as a consultant. Finding and identifying quarterback talent has many layers and it goes far beyond the numbers they post in college football.
The main reason for this difficulty might be the fact that college offenses look nothing like the NFL offense that these guys are going to be required to run. First and foremost, college quarterbacks are rarely under center – something they’ll have to get used to at the NFL level. After the draft, I’ve tweeted out the numbers for Lock from under center last year and it’s a bit alarming.
— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) April 30, 2019
On Friday, Fangio talked about how Lock’s learning a whole new game.
“His college offense really had no carry over to pro offenses and he was under duress a lot of times at his college, so a lot of his plays he was running around. I don’t think he’s far along being a ready NFL quarterback as he could have been. That’s what I mean when he’s got to get ready. He’s not a quarterback yet. He’s a hard throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet, so the faster he gets that the better off he’ll be and we’ll be.” Fangio said.
The coach is right, Lock is not close to starting in the league. He needs to learn how to operate from under center, drop back while scanning the defense and maintaining proper footwork to climb the ladder to evade pressure and buy himself more time as a passer.
More Than a Big Arm
I’ve often compared Lock’s game to that of former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler. However, I think Lock cares a lot more than Cutler about how his pro career turns out. We all know that Lock has a big arm, perhaps the strongest in his draft class, but to be an effective pro quarterback he must be much more than that.
There was a pass on Friday that tore up the dirt in front of the intended target. It was a simple pass to the flat where running back Devontae Jackson was waiting wide open to take the ball and run with it. Lock had plenty of time to get the pass to Jackson, but he didn’t set his feet and throw with touch to get the ball out.
Instead, Lock rushed the throw, didn’t set his feet and tried to catapult the pass in sidearmed and it fell to the ground with a thump. It’s a simple throw, but it highlights the main problem that Lock has – he has to throw with timing and touch to be a great pro. That easy throw should be one he can make with his eyes closed. Instead, Lock failed to get the pass to an open receiver who was incredibly close to the line of scrimmage.
Throwing with touch is next-level quarterbacking and Lock needs to show that he understands what must be done. Having great timing as a passer will help Lock stay in a rhythm, especially when the throws are easy and close by.
There is no doubt that Lock has a ton of natural talent. However, there’s also no doubt that the young quarterback is still incredibly raw and nowhere near being close to starting in the NFL.
Watching Drew Lock is fun, but it’s also quite frustrating because you get a feel for what he could be – which is incredible – but you also see how far he still has to go.
I guess we’ll all just have to be more patient.