The Broncos are down to two quarterbacks after the team released Trevor Siemian.
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — During a 7-on-7 session on Friday, quarterback Drew Lock threw a 50-yard pass to KJ Hamler as the Denver Broncos breezed through a training camp exercise. The performance received a standing ovation from a throng of supporters who had been waiting for it along the hill adjacent to the practice field.
One fan, maybe a weary veteran of the team’s post-Peyton Manning battle to find a quarterback answer, simply exclaimed: “That’s the kind of Broncos football I’m looking for. Put an end to the countdowns.”
Welcome to the 2021 Broncos quarterback duel, where last season’s deluge of mistakes has left an indelible imprint and forced the club to choose between Lock and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job. When it comes to choosing who starts, ball security may well outweigh all else, come hell or high water.
“Who is the most dependable? Who has the greatest consistency? Who is the most composed? “was how Broncos general manager George Paton described the quarterback battle.
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Those phrases may not conjure up images of Elway and Manning doing franchise quarterback things in the minds of many Broncos fans, but they certainly reflect the current state of affairs. Last season, the Broncos, who had missed the playoffs in each of the previous five seasons, led the NFL in giveaways (32) and had the lowest total turnover margin (minus-16). In 2020, opponents converted those turnovers for 100 points, accounting for 22.4 percent of the points scored against the Broncos.
Despite having just 20 throw attempts last season, Lock was tied for first in the league in interceptions and ranked worst in completion %. It’s fair to assume that the Broncos’ safety-first strategy will tip the scales when Fangio and the rest of the offensive coaches make their choice on who will start.
“There’s a thin line,” Fangio said of quarterbacks who take a cautious approach this week. “Check-downs are important, but you need more than just check-downs; you need the correct balance,” says the author.
“To me, they’re about equal, you know, I don’t know what the intellectual calculation would be of one s—-y play that would really impact the game, how many wow plays do you need to wipe that off the books,” Fangio said when asked whether “wow” plays and errors counted the same for quarterbacks.
During the first week of training camp, Fangio went to great pains to divide the work equally among the quarterbacks. Along the way, the Broncos made sure each quarterback received enough of work with the team’s top four receivers.
At first look, it seems like Lock had more huge plays — many of which were in 7-on-7 situations with little pass pressure — yet Bridgewater put up completion after completion.
Bridgewater finished off camp’s first week with a three-interception performance against the first-team defense on Saturday. McTelvin Agim, a defensive lineman, tipped one, and he grabbed the deflection and returned it for what would have been a score. After the session, Fangio said that “every interception has a narrative,” and that he will examine Bridgewater’s tale.
Despite the groans from the sun-drenched spectators, both quarterbacks are aware that turnovers are at the top of the don’t-do list, which may make both quarterbacks less willing to drive the ball down the field until a choice is made.
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Lock said, “I feel like I’m a smarter player today.” “Compared to when I was a rookie or in my second year, I feel like the risks I do take are more considered. It will be a safer call when I push the ball. I’m better at knowing when to check it down, get the 5 yards, and get the 3 yards. That has been emphasized to me throughout the building. Even if the gunslinger mindset is still there, it must be a calculated gunslinger.”
“Whether you’re with the 2s, 3s, or if we have to go to the equipment managers and the people giving us meals in the cafeteria, it’s all about maximizing the reps in your unit and getting your unit to the end zone — moving the ball and being efficient,” Bridgewater said. “You just want to be productive. Finally, the decision makers will make their choice based on what they see.”
The Broncos defense, with the additions in the secondary and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb back together in the pass rush, may be one of the best in the league. With Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Hamler, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant, they have catch-and-run weapons in the passing game. On the offensive line, they have four returning starters.
Paton’s task, at least early in the season, with a coaching staff desperate to avoid letdown for the first time in his career (Fangio is 0-for-September the last two seasons), may just be to be constant, steady, and quiet.
In the next weeks, Fangio may see at least part of “the separation” he seeks. The Broncos will train for two days against the Minnesota Vikings before playing them in their first preseason game on August 14.
Before a decision is finalized, Fangio has said that Lock and Bridgewater will each “probably” start a preseason game.
“I anticipate and hope that whomever we choose as the starting can perform well enough to be the starter,” Fangio stated. “We have a competent backup if the play doesn’t back it up. I’m not saying that to make anybody anxious at the outset. At all positions in the NFL, this is a reality of life. Hopefully, whomever we choose remains in the game, performs well, and helps us win.”
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