Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock is primed to make a big leap in 2021. However it may be for reasons, you may not think.
An argument can be made Denver Broncos are a quarterback away from being a true contender in the AFC this upcoming season. I have made the case that the Broncos were built to compete in 2021, and the team seems on track to do so this upcoming season.
To compete, General Manager George Paton attacked his to-do list.
With moves to shore up the secondary, the Broncos addressed the most glaring area of concern heading into the offseason.
The Denver Broncos defense saw the return of Shelby Harris and Justin Simmons on long-term deals while the option for Von Miller was picked up for the 2021 season.
Next, Paton brought in 27-year-old cornerback Ronald Darby. Darby was tied for the NFL lead in forced incompletions with 17 according to Pro Football Focus.
Additionally, the Denver Broncos hit big with the addition of former All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller to a one-year deal.
All of these moves were made with the idea the team is in win-now mode, meaning the play of the quarterback will make or break the team this season. All of the pressure sits in the lap of number three as the Broncos have yet to make a move at the quarterback position.
The current Denver Broncos QB situation
The team passed on trades for Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and free-agent additions like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and Tyrod Taylor.
Paton may decide a rookie quarterback is a way to go, but until that happens, the Broncos are showing faith that Drew Lock can make a leap into year three.
Arguments for and against Drew Lock’s future have been the debate of Broncos Country for a year, if not more.
Fans of the Denver Broncos have been starved for good quarterback play, and have seen their patience dwindle. People are tired of poor quarterback play as division rivals boast some of the best young quarterbacks in the game.
Now that this team seems to have all of its positional needs filled (outside of safety), the quarterback position is even more visible. The Denver Broncos need competent play at the quarterback position to capitalize on the team’s most talented roster in years.
There are reasons to believe Lock will never be “The Guy.” He has struggled with some of the same issues he had leaving Missouri and being drafted in 2019.
The reasons Lock fell to the Broncos in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft are inaccuracy and poor mechanics that remain an issue so far in his NFL career. Furthermore, most players at the quarterback position make a large jump in year two or do not make one at all.
When asked about Lock, Paton had supportive and critical comments about the quarterback on the roster but was also careful not to commit to him.
"Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on.George Paton – Press Conference 3/18/2021"
So, why can Drew Lock take a leap for the Denver Broncos in year 3?
The arguments against the likelihood Drew Lock can see a significant jump are valid, yet they lack some context. The objective of this article is to give the reader evidence as to why Lock can make a jump, outside of hope and wishes.
Correlation can be made between the jump Josh Allen made in 2020 after two years of less than stellar play and the opportunity Lock has to see a similar jump in play during the 2021 season.
First, Lock has the physical traits necessary to play the game.
When asked about Lock in his pre-free agency press conference, Paton stated, “He does have all the traits you look for in a quarterback.”
At 6-foot-4 and 225-230-pounds, Drew Lock has the requisite size for the position. Additionally, most would argue that Lock has the required arm talent to play the position. He is able to make all of the necessary throws to succeed in the NFL.
Like Allen, Lock came into the league with the traits but not the consistency to play the position at a high level. However, physical traits are not enough (see Paxton Lynch).
So now I will make an independent argument as to why Lock can succeed in 2021.
Organizational climate and performance
Let’s break down the impact of learning within the first year of any new position.
Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review identifies that breakthroughs occur when the stress of learning decreases allowing people to learn and retain knowledge at a quicker rate.
Learning is hindered by stress that is usually highest within the person’s first year on the job.
What occurs within all of us in our first year on the job is an overwhelming feeling of incompetence. As we trying and learn the technical aspects of the job we learn all of the nuances to the role that you don’t get in your new employee training class.
Meaning that no matter the position you are in, you become better at what you do after you become more competent in knowing the nuances, or “the little things”. From knowing the acronyms in your industry to the names and extensions of your co-workers, we become better at our job when we don’t have to waste time thinking about “the little things.” The biggest jump in learning for people occurs most in the last quarter of year one in any job.
Now, add the gravity of the position of quarterback and it exceeds anyone’s capacity to learn. Regardless of your success, the amount of information for young players at the quarterback to learn within their first year on the field goes beyond most of our comprehension.
Lock’s ability to learn the role while performing on the field is like drinking from a fire hose. For example, the nuances of everything (terminology, player and coach tendencies, footwork, etc.) that must be done to be successful comes at you so fast it is impossible to internalize it all, let alone turn it into great play on the field. This is exaggerated when you aren’t having live repetitions in OTAs or preseason games.
This isn’t the story for everyone but is for over 90% of the working population regardless of industry.
The times of least efficacy is not your first day of work but actually smack dap in the middle of your first year in the position.
Even though Lock went through his second NFL season, we can make a strong case it was the first time he was in the role of an NFL starting quarterback and his previous work in 2019 loses applicability because of the change in offensive systems.
What we saw as the 2020 season progressed, Lock made significant strides on the field in his first year as a starting NFL quarterback. Many progressions were obvious, some more subtle.
Statistically, he was a much better player as evidence by his 240 yards per game average with a touchdown to interception ratio of 9:5 over his last 6 games.
Additionally, per Pro Football Reference, Lock’s bad throw percentage was 8% better last 4 games even though he was blitzed and hurried more often than the season average.
If you compared his play from the beginning of the season to the end, the film shows Lock’s on-field improvement.
So he played a little better, what does this all mean?
It means Lock was able to transfer the beginning of the year’s failures into mid-to-late-year success.
Or we can say he showed growth.
Or that there is an upward trend.
Or, he has taken a leap.
However we want to phrase it, his arrow is pointing in the right direction.
That said, he isn’t done yet, and here is why we can expect the best has yet to come.
Why Drew Lock can continue to improve
Drew Lock has always been a hard worker, but he isn’t an experienced NFL quarterback. Working hard, and knowing what to work on are two different stories. Lock’s made adjustments to how he is preparing for the 2021 season.
"I love Drew. Going forward I think he understands what he needs to do. And he understands it doesn’t have anything to do with his football skills. And it’s good to see. I’ve been in Denver for a couple weeks and his approach to the game has been 100 percent different than it was during the season. He’s one of the first guys in the building. One of the last guys to leave. He’s doing the small things to be a great player in this league. And understanding what you’re not good at and getting it up to where your talent is.”WR Tim Patrick said, via Mike Klis of KUSA."
Different isn’t bad. Again, working hard doesn’t alone equal success. Knowing “the little things” to focus on larger issues does equate to faster jumps in performance.
Players are not the only ones to chime in on Lock’s effort and desire to be great.
Additionally, George Paton added at his pre-free agency press conference,
"I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great… I like the track that Drew’s on.– George Paton Press Conference 3/18/2021"
To succeed, intention and effort are necessary for people to experience a jump in production.
However, Lock’s effort alone isn’t enough, nor is his seemingly positive attitude or his leadership traits. The Broncos have also done something else to ensure he has the opportunity to jump by ensuring the team has continuity.
There is a connection between the organizational climate and performance. Josh Allen would have failed without the right support system. The same point can be made as to why Lock can succeed.
What the aforementioned Allen had that Lock had not to this point is consistent coaching and system.
Behavior science shows that a jump in learning and comprehension can occur when teaching is emphasized and continuity is reached.
Lock entered the 2020 season with a new offensive coordinator and no offseason programming. Additionally, the team featured off of the youngest offenses in the NFL and he lost the player he had the best rapport with Pro-Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton.
Paton has shown a belief in what head coach Vic Fangio is building, and that is emphasized by teaching.
Meaning, the organization provided a healthy climate that would allow most people with the prerequisite skill set needed for the position to thrive, ala Josh Allen.
So, like you and I, Lock can make a jump in his performance from basic solid organizational management. The team understands how time and support create improved output and the biggest jump occurs after year one.
The Denver Broncos have been making some big splashes in new general manager George Paton's first year on the job. We track them all.
So now we can understand the steps Lock made during the season, his dedication to hard work, his physical traits, and the effort the organization took to surround Lock with stability provides evidence that he can make a bit jump for the Denver Broncos in 2021.