The Broncos have finally let quarterback Drew Lock start practicing again. Lock, a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, was supposed to be the team’s quarterback of the future, but a thumb injury suffered in the preseason had him stuck on Injured Reserve.
Now healthy, the Broncos have chosen to open a 21-day window to decide whether or not to activate Lock or shut him down for the rest of his rookie season. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio commented on Monday how the team wanted to work Lock back into action.
“We’ll try to get him as many as we can. Some of that will be scout team, too. You’ve got to remember, this guy hasn’t taken a snap or been in the huddle since the middle of August,” Fangio said.
Every reporter at UC Health Training Center on Tuesday had their focus concentrated almost exclusively on Lock, including this one. Here’s what Lock showed on his first day back at practice during the portion that was open to the media.
I saw Lock in the locker room before practice and you could tell that he was amped up for the day. He was all taped up and ready to go in the locker room. Lock was all smiles when he was going around talking to teammates. It was clear that he was excited for his opportunity to show what he can do.
Before practice, rookie tight end Noah Fant commented on Lock’s big day.
“It’s gonna be good to have Drew back and see what he can do. I’m sure he’s excited and everyone is excited for him,” Fant said.
Once the players got onto the field, that excitement from Lock continued. He was getting the third-team reps behind starter Brandon Allen and backup Brett Rypien. Lock was getting the same amount of snaps as the other two at the beginning of practice, but there were some drills later on where Lock did not get a single rep.
Allen would get most of the work on the more important reps, with Rypien getting a couple of reps after that. Lock was so excited that these missed opportunities had to hit close to home. It’s just part of the deal when you’re trying to work your way up from the third-string offense.
Strongest Arm on the Team
There is no doubt that Lock has the strongest arm on the team. Allen has a strong arm and can make all the throws required in the NFL – he just can’t make them as effortlessly as Lock does. The ball jumps from the hand of Lock and can get to the target a lot faster than the other two quarterbacks on the roster.
“He has a good arm. The rest of it is up to him. (Rich) Scangarello and T.C. (McCartney) are going to have him right,” Fant said.
Lock can use that arm strength to fit passes into windows that others just can’t make. He didn’t make any tight-window throws in practice (yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice), but I’ve seen Lock do it before and could easily see him do it again.
It was noteworthy to see how Lock’s arm stacks up against Allen and Rypien. There is no doubt that Lock’s passes can go farther and get their quicker.
Footwork Improved… Kind of
The biggest problem with Lock’s game has always been his footwork. I’ve talked to Lock since the Senior Bowl back in January about how he’s worked to clean up his footwork, especially when dropping back from under center.
I like the way his kick step looked on Tuesday. The kick step is the first step a quarterback takes from under center. This step is usually larger than the other steps in a three- or five-step drop. It must be balanced and get the quarterback away from the rush in a hurry as he looks over the field to make decisions when passing the ball.
Lock did a good job of getting away from the center and quickly setting up to throw. Because his footwork looked better, Lock’s timing as a passer was on point. The depth of the drop and the timing of the drop will be synced up with the depth of the routes run by receivers. Quarterbacks are taught to drop, read, hitch step forward to the next read and so on until all reads are exhausted. If your footwork is off, your timing is off and it’s difficult to recover when going through progressions.
Lock’s footwork was good, but there is a huge caveat here in this category – there was zero pressure. I like that Lock’s footwork was cleaned up, but it means nothing if those mechanics go out the window when the young quarterback is under duress.
Sidearm Still a Thing
There were only a couple of passes that weren’t mechanically sound, but it showed me that Lock’s release point is still going to be a guessing game. Lock had a couple of passes that were off target during the 20-25 passes I saw him throw on Tuesday. Both of those throws came when his arm angle and release point was not true, tight and natural.
Lock can sidearm throws when he’s under pressure. This is a skill that few can master, and it’s one that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes uses when defenders are in his face. Lock can make those type of off-platform throws in a similar manner – and that is a great skill to have.
However, Lock will sometimes change his release point and arm angle for no reason. When the pocket is clean, Lock needs to make sure that his release point is over his head. When Lock is rolling out to his right or left, he will have much better accuracy if he releases the ball the right way.
Instead of consistent mechanics in terms of arm angle, Lock will randomly change his release point and that leads to off-target passes. I don’t believe this problem can be fixed. This is kind of who he is, so the Broncos are going to have to deal with that as Lock continues to practice and hopefully gets to the field someday soon.
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