ENGLEWOOD — Thank heavens. The Broncos are moving toward Drew Lock at quarterback.
On a frigid Wednesday afternoon at UCHealth Training Center, the Broncos attempted to keep a secret. They failed. All signs, suggestions and everything said pointed in the direction of Lock, the highly anticipated rookie quarterback, making his first career start, Sunday vs. forever nemesis Philip Rivers and the L.A. Chargers.
“Yeah, we’re going to up Drew’s reps this week extensively in practice,” Vic Fangio said.
Minutes later, Lock was the quarterback selected to begin practice with a snap from center Connor McGovern. Allen took the second, then it was back to Lock, who fired a completion to Courtland Sutton. Was it a preview of the next decade?
Give thanks. Starting Lock would be a nod toward Broncos Country for its loyalty (and to unload tickets that are going for less than $70 on the secondary market) and to the Broncos players themselves, who had lost confidence in the injured Joe Flacco and underwhelming Allen.
Fans and players will be thankful if Lock starts.
Lock will be afforded 75 percent of the snaps in practice, Fangio said. Denver does some weird things with quarterbacks, but giving 75 percent of the practice snaps to a backup QB isn’t one.
The "earliest" a decision could be made would be “later in the week,” Fangio said, “potentially right up to the game.” Lock's had three weeks of practice since he was activated from the IR.
The Broncos’ second-round draft pick is 23 years old. He was a two-star basketball prospect coming out of high school in Lee's Summit, Mo., slides into locker room poker games with Von Miller like an established vet and has a strong hairline. He presents an easy personality that should be able to handle the losing that's coming. That's what I wish to see: how does Lock deal with an interception, a sack, a two-touchdown defeat? Anyone can handle winning.
“Being able to start for four years at Mizzou I’ve been through a super-big high and a super-big low," Lock said. "Anything in between or at the top or the bottom I’ll be ready for.”
But can he play? Need to see it first. The past three-plus seasons, in which the Broncos have made eight quarterback changes, were jading. Lock sure behaves like he can play, like he has no worries in the world, like all he needs is a shot to become the quarterback here for the next decade. He’s confident bordering on cocky. He’s swaggy. But, “We’ll see,” Fangio said.
We’ll probably see on Sunday, thankfully.
“I’m just going to be myself,” Lock said. “Just be what I’ve been to get to this point. If that means making some plays where people might think I’m doing too much, then so be it. It’s just who I am as a quarterback. I’m going to stick to my guns and stick to what I am as a (QB).”
With six television cameras and 17 media members smothering the Missouri graduate’s safe space, Lock was calm, cool, collected. He leaned one foot on the bench in front of his own locker, smiled at questions, seemed to realize Colorado covets its quarterback like few places.
“I’m prepping to be the starter,” Lock said. “If that happens then that happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ll be ready either way.”
The Broncos Team Store is not ready. It was sold out of Flacco jerseys but had no Lock jerseys in stock Wednesday. Perhaps the Broncos Team Store must see if he can play, too. His teammates don’t. They're sold.
“He’s young, he’s athletic, he has a big arm, and he’s wanting to learn,” Sutton said.
“He’s already a talented young man, so he just needs to go out there and showcase it now,” Phillip Lindsay said.
“He’s going to be a baller for sure,” Tim Patrick said.
Across the locker room, nine-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl selection Chris Harris Jr. studied Lock’s media session. These guys are not unlike you or me. They want to see the kid.
“From talking to him,” Harris said, “he seems like he’s ready.”
Ready or not, the Chargers (4-7) game makes the most sense for Lock to debut. Road games at Houston (7-4) and at Kansas City (7-4), a half-hour from Lock’s hometown, are no place to wet a rookie quarterback’s feet. If the final five games go well for Lock, they've found their guy.
If not, the Broncos, who are currently positioned with the No. 5 overall pick, draft a quarterback.
“I definitely feel like I’m back to being super comfortable,” Lock said.