This season has taken quite a few twists and turns for the Broncos. The latest – and largest – twist this week is the team having to play against the Browns on Sunday without starting quarterback Joe Flacco. He’s battling a neck injury and it’s unclear how much time this injury will force him to miss.
In the meantime, Brandon Allen is going to be the starter for the Broncos. He’s been in the league for a few years, working and waiting for this opportunity. Allen says that he’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s obviously a great opportunity this week. The approach and preparation really doesn’t change. I think as a backup you prepare the same as a starter does and you’re ready to go in at a moment’s notice,” Allen said.
So, with Allen moving up the depth chart, the Broncos need to find a backup quarterback from the other two players at the position on their roster. Both rookies, second-round pick Drew Lock and undrafted free agent Brett Rypien are the players to choose from.
Lock could be the franchise quarterback of the future and I want to see as much of him as possible, but choosing Rypien over him this week isn’t really that big of a deal. Let me explain.
We’re Talking About Practice
This is the first and most important point of this whole discussion, in my opinion. Rypien has been out there on the practice field actually throwing the ball the past few weeks, while Lock has just been watching from the sidelines.
Sure, Rypien has not run the Broncos offense since training camp. But working as the scout team quarterback has put him on the field.
On Tuesday, Rypien commented that those reps have helped.
“Being able to go out against our defense every day, I think that would get anybody ready. We’ve got a lot of good guys over there. It’s been nice to keep kind of acting like I’ve been playing a little bit even though I haven’t been getting game reps. Those reps definitely help for sure,” Rypien said.
Simply put, Rypien has been making throws and Lock has not. The team has to make sure that Lock is ready when he takes the field. If he’s going to be the future of the team, they don’t want to ruin him because they put him in there too soon.
Both Rypien and Lock are using the virtual reality tools at the Broncos facility to learn the offense. It’s a step in the right direction for a team that has been slow to utilize new technology in the past. Using virtual reality, quarterbacks can make decisions and be tested against different coverages without the risk of bodily injury.
Being sound on the VR headset doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have success on the football field. Remember when former Jets quarterback Bryce Petty said that he could read defenses because he played a lot of “Madden” in his spare time? Well, this is more involved than picking up an XBox controller – and by the way, both Rypien and Lock are way better prospects than Petty ever was.
The virtual reality system has helped both Rypien and Lock to this point. It’s something they should both use going forward if they’re healthy or not.
“With the VR stuff, it’s for the defenses that we’re going to see that week and we’re running our plays. Just practicing calling the plays in the huddle and going through the process of what you’re doing pre-snap and then kind of making sure that you’re good on the reads and everything like that,” Rypien said.
The practice time in running the scout team and the use of virtual reality should help Rypien who could be one play away from throwing passes for the Broncos in Week 9. By the way, for those (like me) wanting to see Lock ASAP – he needs to get better at reading the middle of the field when using VR. Sources tell me that is a spot in his game that needs cleaned up in the virtual and real world.
Throw Him Back
The cold reality of the NFL is that players like Rypien bounce on and off rosters all the time. The Broncos could waive Rypien when Lock is ready to go and he’d likely clear waivers to be put back on the practice squad. They might even tell Rypien that they want him back on the practice squad if/when they call him up to the active roster this week.
While Lock could be the franchise quarterback of the future, Rypien has the skill set to be a quality backup or spot starter – if he hits as a pro. It’s a lower risk for the team to put Rypien out there at this point. If he never plays as a backup, that’s fine; no team will come calling when it’s time to put him back on the practice squad.
Lock’s time will come – eventually. More patience is required by myself and a large majority of the fanbase that wants to see Lock play in this lost season.
He’s chomping at the bit to get out there and play for the Broncos, but Lock trusts the team’s plan for him.
“When I come back, they want to give me some practice reps before they put me into a game without even practicing a little. I think they have an awesome plan and whenever they feel like they want to put that plan in place, I’ll be good,” Lock said.
Lock believes in the plan, so Broncos Country has no choice but to wait – whether they like it or not.