Does it actually make sense for the Denver Broncos to sit Drew Lock?
By Noah Smith
Does it make sense for the Denver Broncos to bench Drew Lock?
The goal of the season for the Denver Broncos was to find out if Drew Lock was their guy for the future. So far, it’s not looking great for Lock and the Broncos.
Through seven games this season, Lock has a 7:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and only a 55% completion percentage, per Pro Football Reference. Lock has looked great at times, but he has also looked out of place as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
With a rib injury holding Lock back in practice this week, Sunday’s game against a Miami Dolphins team that has five straight wins could be the perfect opportunity to sit Drew Lock down for a week.
Now, if Lock is fully healthy and available to play against the Dolphins, he should absolutely get the start. The Denver Broncos need all the information they can get on Lock before making an important decision at the end of the season.
However, if Lock is not fully healthy, the Denver Broncos should roll with Brett Rypien against the Dolphins and rest Lock for one game. Here’s how sitting Lock will help him grow:
Drew Lock still needs to work on seeing the whole field
Lock now has 12 starts under his belt, and has very clear strengths and weaknesses. We all see the arm talent and movement skills that made him such an intriguing prospect, but one of Lock’s major struggles is seeing the field and making NFL reads.
In college at the University of Missouri, Lock ran a spread offense for three of his four years. The offense that Drew Lock ran did not ask him to make NFL reads, rather to find the pre-snap mismatch, which resulted in his favorite target Albert Okwuegbunam‘s career years at Mizzou.
In his last year at Missouri, Lock ran a pro-styled offense under Derek Dooley. Many were hoping some of Lock’s coaching under Dooley would translate to the NFL.
So far, we have seen a mixed bag from Drew Lock as far as his mental processing of the game. Lock has shown that he can read NFL defenses and exploit coverages, but he hasn’t consistently been able to do it.
Recently, Lock has really struggled at reading defenses, and using his eyes to manipulate defenders in zone coverage. Against the Raiders, Lock threw an ugly interception to Jeff Heath when Drew stared down Jerry Jeudy on the goal line.
Letting Lock sit down for a week will allow him to recover physically, as well as mentally. Lock needs to take ownership of his development mentally, and prioritize finding the weaknesses in NFL defenses.
Lock needs to identify the blitz, and make the defense pay
Teams have been lighting the Denver Broncos up with the blitz, as well as using stunts to create pressure for Drew Lock.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, the Broncos faced a blitz on 13 out of 55 drop backs, or nearly 25%, according to Pro Football Focus. On the plays where Lock was blitzed or pressured, he had grades of 59.5 and 40, respectively.
The numbers tell a similar story against the Las Vegas Raiders, where Lock was blitzed on 12 of his 49 drop backs, good for nearly 25% again. Much like the week before, Lock earned grades of 27.9 and 38.1 on plays where he was blitzed or pressured, respectively.
More concerning than grades, Lock’s production struggled against the blitz. When facing the blitz against the Raiders, Drew Lock threw for 41 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions, all on a 27% completion percentage.
By not countering the defenses’ blitz with big plays, Lock is putting the Broncos in position to fail, as well as jeopardizing his safety in the NFL. Drew has already missed two and a half games this season from holding the ball too long, and could end up missing his fourth game this week.
The Denver Broncos should make the decision to sit Drew this week to keep him safe, as well as allow him to work on his pre-snap blitz reads. By identifying the blitz before the snap, he can find where the blitz is coming from, and throw behind the blitz to wide open receivers for solid gains.
By throwing behind the defense, Lock will not only protect himself from the pass rush, but also turn what has been a negative into a positive for the offense. Learning to beat the blitz will help the offensive production in games, and will keep Lock on the field.
Lock needs to develop a game-plan that fits his strengths with Pat Shurmur
Drew Lock and Pat Shurmur look to have a working professional relationship. However, it seems that the two have struggled to find an offense that plays to Drew Locks strengths.
As a young quarterback, Drew Lock needs the support of his playmakers, as well as his coaches. Pat Shurmur has struggled to fit the offense to Lock, but sitting Drew Lock could give the two an opportunity to create a game-plan for the rest of the season.
I thought Shurmur did a much better job against the Raiders at calling plays for Lock. Shurmur didn’t force feed the run game, but rather let it come naturally. The play-action shots were well designed, but Drew Lock missed on a few early throws.
The offense would benefit greatly from adding easy plays like screens and run-pass-options. Giving Lock pre-designed plays to get the ball out of his hands more quickly will play to his strengths, as well as help Lock get in rhythm without taking blind shots down the field.
Using screens would be an excellent way to get the Broncos’ targets involved early and often. Letting his skilled playmakers create after the catch would be a great way to move the ball more efficiently. Using screen passes would also help slow down the relentless blitz’s that defenses are throwing at the Broncos’ offense.
Sitting Drew Lock against the Miami Dolphins would give Lock and Shurmur time to find what Drew likes, and incorporate more of it into the offense. The Denver Broncos want Drew Lock to succeed, meaning the offense should be tailored to Lock’s skillset. If Lock and Shurmur can solve their issues and find what works, the Broncos may finally start to come together on offense.