Denver Broncos: The plan for Drew Lock will be telling

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 19: Quarterback Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter during a preseason National Football League game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 19: Quarterback Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter during a preseason National Football League game at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos are able to bring Drew Lock back to practice this week, meaning he can play in three weeks. His path to the field will be telling.

After seven long weeks waiting for some type of news or progress with rookie quarterback Drew Lock, the Denver Broncos will finally welcome their second-round pick back to practice this week as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL rules mandate players placed on injured reserve after teams submit their initial 53-man rosters sit for the first six weeks of the season before they are eligible for practice, but because the Broncos’ seventh game was a Thursday night contest, they elected not to ‘waste’ a week with players eligible to come off of IR when they were only going to be doing light work and not much on-field in preparation for the Chiefs.

According to the NFL’s IR-return rules, players must stay on IR for a minimum of eight weeks before returning to the team’s active roster.

Because that’s the rule, the Broncos could still bring Lock, tight end Jake Butt, and running back Theo Riddick back after week eight, but they don’t have to make a final decision on their roster status until after week nine because they haven’t officially practiced yet.

Therefore, the Broncos don’t have to make a final decision on Drew Lock for three more weeks, but they could bring him back to the active roster as soon as week nine against the Cleveland Browns.

Will they do that? I’m not so sure, but it can’t hurt if Lock is healthy. It’s not like he’s learning the offense for the first time.

How the Broncos handle Lock’s return will be telling of the overall competence of the front office.

It isn’t mandatory for Lock to be brought back on a fast track, but the Broncos can’t possibly see Joe Flacco as anything but a sunk cost at this point, and a fairly minor one at that.

Flacco is making average QB money and it cost the Broncos a fourth-round pick to trade for him. Who cares about that? It’s clear through seven games that Flacco is not only what fans thought he was last year, he’s probably worse.

In all seven of the Broncos’ games this season, it’s clear that Flacco has been more of a reason for the team losing than he has for them winning or almost winning or however you want to spin it. He’s part of the problem, not the solution, and he’s not a long-term answer for the Broncos.

He’s not in his prime, John Elway. He clearly doesn’t give the team the ‘best chance to win games’ right now, and really how could we argue against that?

Flacco is 6-10 in his last 16 games with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over that timeframe. He’s taken 39 sacks (23 in Denver this year) and is doing nothing to elevate the players around him. As a matter of fact, he’s making guys look worse.

Flacco’s inability to identify open receivers has resulted in enough frustration on Emmanuel Sanders’ part that Sanders is likely going to be traded and probably asked for it (we don’t know that for sure).

His inability to identify blitzes and hot receivers has resulted in the Broncos’ offensive line looking even worse than it already is.

He’s holding onto the ball way too long. He has no escape-ability. He looks uninspired and lackadaisical out there on the field.

Flacco has certainly made some nice throws with the Broncos, but he makes head-scratching decisions with the ball and before the snap indicating his regression over the past few years has less to do with his circumstances and more to do with his abilities.

We talked about this on the latest Knights of DEN podcast.

The Broncos can’t honestly look themselves in the mirror and say that what Flacco has done in seven games — six touchdowns compared to eight turnovers — is worthy of keeping on the field.

The Broncos have been one of the worst teams in the NFL on third downs and one of the worst teams in general offensively. If you have a young player with upside waiting in the wings, why in the world would you choose the 34-year old guy to continue spinning his wheels out there when you could put Drew Lock out there and let him try to find some success in his rookie season?

With a 2-5 record through seven games, I don’t even care what happens on the road this week against the Colts. If Flacco has a good game against Indianapolis, it will be an exception in eight games, not the rule.

Therefore, if the Broncos play this game that Flacco gives them the best chance to win, he’s the veteran, he’s the starter, and there are no questions to be asked about it, we’ll know that this front office and coaching staff is willing to jeopardize the future of the team for a guy who is not the long-term answer for the franchise at all.

There’s nothing to gain at this point by delaying Drew Lock’s debut. As a matter of fact, while I understand a lot of bad football comes along with playing a rookie, I think we would see Lock help other aspects of the Broncos’ offense, such as moving around in the pocket, running bootlegs effectively, and extending plays with his legs, even — believe it or not — picking up first downs by running.

It’s hard to imagine, but it is possible for QBs to do that.

Next. Broncos mock draft building around Lock. dark

The Broncos have to figure out a way to move on from Joe Flacco as quickly as possible. That much is evident. If they slow-play things with Lock or limit his practice reps or something else like that, we’ll know they are under a delusion that Flacco is still capable of something that he’s clearly not capable of.