ENGLEWOOD • This whole thing is set up for Drew Lock to take over as Broncos quarterback. All of it.
Starting gig for a franchise rich in QB history, Elway to Manning. More than enough money to fix the reverse mullet and get an adult haircut.
“The whole Broncos organization is obviously very important to Denver and the state of Colorado,” Lock said, starting off right, after the Broncos opened training camp at UCHealth Training Center.
Don’t waste the opportunity, dude.
Lock's time wasn’t Thursday, and it won’t be the season opener Sept. 9 at Oakland, but it should be no more than a year or two, max. The Broncos are setting it up for Lock. They plopped the second-round draft pick into a no-pressure rookie season behind a pro’s pro, Joe Flacco. They brought in an offensive coordinator Lock already adores.
“Coach (Rich) Scangarello is 100 percent the man,” Lock said.
Talk about a sweet situation. If Lock doesn’t turn himself into Colorado’s quarterback — for a long time — chalk it up as another Mizzou athlete who walks and talks a pretty game but prefers the trophy on a silver platter. Ask first-round draft pick Shane Ray, whose name I had to Google to see what he’s up to these days. One-year deal with the Ravens, if you forgot too.
On Day 1 of his first training camp, Lock had a better day than Paxton Lynch had in two years of these things. (Take July workouts with a shaker of salt; they’re in shorts, no pads.) Lock had this one throw where he sprinted right, ducked under a pass rusher and zzzzipped a fastball 25 yards downfield. First down, Broncos.
Dang, folks. That boy can sling it. Now can he think the game, endure the early criticism that shadowed even Elway, treat a loss (or several) as the most important part of the process?
Stand by. Flacco is QB1 for 2019. If Denver’s playoff-bound, the QB queue should stay that way.
“He leads through example,” Vic Fangio said.
And Flacco is a fine example for Lock to follow.
This is Flacco’s offense. No doubt about it. But when that’s over, Elway and the Broncos are molding Lock as the long-term prize they and so many others covet. Don’t waste it. The last Missouri guy did, not to mention the last quarterback of the future, Paxton Lynch.
Couldn’t make it out for Day 1? Here’s the gist:
8:55 a.m.: Does camp start next Thursday? No traffic lines, and the fans on the grassy berm are countable (312). Sure, attendance jumps on the weekend. But after 5-11 and 6-10 seasons, what Pat Bowlen used to say rings true: Never take fans for granted. They’re not a given.
9:26: Flacco’s first completion, to former Buffs wide receiver Juwann Winfree. Flacco’s got Lock by 3 inches, at least. Handsome, Super Bowl ring, $147 million made in football, a teenager’s hairline. No wonder the Baltimore Ravens wanted him gone. They were just jealous.
9:28: Troy Fumagali (with the first-teamers, ahem), Noah Fant, Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman. Misplace a Big Ten tight end? Check Dove Valley. Pray for Butt’s left knee, which wore a huge brace, and tight end should be a strength for the Broncos. Been a while.
9:56: Hat tip to the surgeons out there. Seven months, 13 days ago, Emmanuel Sanders crumpled to the turf 10 feet in front of me. His face showed no emotion, knowing it was a torn Achilles. Thursday, Sanders sprinted and cut with a ball in his hands like he was brand new. Can't be said enough. Medicine is amazing.
“Joe is smooth,” Sanders says of his sixth starting quarterback here. “I call him ‘Pretty Boy Flacco.’”
See, jealous. Seriously, though, the most important players here are Flacco (the Broncos need stability as Lock develops), Sanders (the other wideouts are super young) and Garett Bolles (on the struggle bus). The first two looked spry, motivated, ready. The third looked like the Broncos need a left tackle.
9:58: It figures that in Colorado we’d talk about the next quarterback, Lock, instead of the guy who’s going to start. (Sorry, Joe. We’re wired that way.) So here’s my impression of Flacco: as tall as Paxton (but not Brock), easy cheese on his throws, eerily mild-mannered, in charge.
And the whole dynamic is striking in how it compares to Peyton Manning’s arrival. Manning was 36, Flacco 34. Both were ticked off at their former teams for moving on. And just as you got the previous Peyton, you’re probably getting the previous Joe: 20 TDs, 13 INTs and “Let’s go, D!”
I don’t get all the pessimism with Flacco when the other option was Case Keenum. And you guys know his Ravens owned the Broncos, right?
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Flacco said.
Flacco explained his chill demeanor by drawing on his favorite tennis star, Roger Federer: “If some people don’t like it, I don’t really care. I am who I am and that’s the only person I’m good at being.”
He knows he and the Broncos need each other: “If you’re frustrated, well, fix it. Go play better.”
Flacco even brought a dad joke, another Peyton special: “Phillip (Lindsay) is like one of my kids. I don’t know where gets all the energy, but he has it 24/7.”
10:27: Vic Fangio dressed up today. His khaki shorts look ironed. To top off his summer outfit, a ... sweatshirt? “I had nine seasons in New Orleans,” he said. “They pray for a day like this.”
10:34: Courtland Sutton, the No. 1A wide receiver, drops a second pass. Fangio pounces.
“I kinda ride him and tease him, so I’ll take advantage of that,” he says.
10:37: Under pressure again, Lock uncorks a side-armer through a swaying cornfield of long arms ... and it’s a touchdown pass for converted wide receiver Brendan Langley. Dang, folks.
11:12: Double horns. Day 1’s a wrap.
“JOE FLACCO!” Von Miller shouts at his quarterback.
Life comes at you fast.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)