Drew Lock moves into the spotlight as Denver Broncos prepare to unveil explosive new offense
Watch the Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos live on Sky Sports NFL from 3:15am in the early hours of Monday morning
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 15/09/20 10:22am
As a pumped Drew Lock rapped to Young Jeezy's 'Put On' while on the sidelines in last season's Week 17 win over the Oakland Raiders, those associated with the Denver Broncos knew it was far more than an excited rookie soaking up the atmosphere.
The kid from Missouri was being himself. When shown the video after the game he could not even recall the song he had been nailing word-for-word, "Gosh dang it, I was spitting though!".
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He was in the zone, introducing the NFL to the unassuming yet absorbing charisma that, combined with his skill set, many believe can provide a long-term solution to the team's quarterback conundrum.
The moment encapsulated a sense of both relief and exhilaration that he was making his mark in the NFL after a less than straight-forward transition for the second round pick in 2019. Lock ran into difficulties learning the Broncos offense early on and had taken time to adjust to making more complex reads than he had been used to at college.
He was accustomed to omniscience under center, entering the pro ranks having set a then-SEC record for single-season touchdown passes with 44 in 2017 and left Missouri second on the all-time list of SEC passing yards with 12,193.
Soaring optimism of what he might offer stems from a mere five-game span in December last year after he was activated off injured reserve having hurt his thumb in preseason. Even if he had been healthy for Week One, he would not have been ready.
In Week 14 Lock went 22 of 27 passing for 309 yards, three touchdowns and an interception to light up the Houston Texans in a 38-24 win, before leading the Broncos to victories over the Detroit Lions and Raiders in the final two weeks after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. For a teaser trailer, the expectations are high.
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"The hype around Drew is real," Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton told Sky Sports. "Drew is a guy who goes out there and works his craft every day, goes out there and wants to be the best quarterback he can be for us.
"It's fun to watch, it's fun to watch his progression, it's fun to watch him grow every single day at practice and to lead.
"He's getting better at understanding the responsibility that comes with being QB1 and it's been a lot of fun just being part of his journey. I know it's only the beginning of what he has going on, so to be able to be a part of it is a lot of fun to see."
Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco. Between general manager John Elway and the Broncos brass, the organisation have miscued on numerous occasions in their pursuit of an answer to Peyton Manning's retirement in 2016.
The overriding feeling is they may have hit on this one.
"He came in like he'd been there before," said Elway at the end of last season. "He was able to bounce back from mistakes and not let mistakes bother him.
"What we saw mostly in those last five games that he started, he has the mental capacity not only to handle the offense but also to handle all the things outside that with all the pressure that goes along with being the quarterback."
The Broncos were not shy in demonstrating their commitment to Lock this offseason as they gifted him some new playmakers in view of building a group that could develop for years to come.
Denver used their first-round pick on Alabama's mesmeric route-runner Jerry Jeudy to play across from Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton, before recruiting further support on the outside in the form of Penn State's K.J. Hamler.
They signed former Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to partner undrafted success story Phillip Lindsay in the backfield, and brought in versatile offensive guard Graham Glasgow, formerly of the Detroit Lions, for added protection.
With their third-round pick the Broncos selected LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry, who has since won the starting job at the heart of Lock's offensive line.
In round four they turned to Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam as another red-zone threat to complement Noah Fant, who impressed with 40 catches for 562 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie year.
"We made a lot of really good moves offensively and defensively to get us in position to go and fight to play for a championship, it's cool to be able to see the pieces come together," added Sutton.
"Not having OTAs, coming into camp was our first time being around each other and being able to see everybody move full speed and the system offensively and defensively.
"It's been a lot of fun to see everybody's attributes come together, it's going to be a lot of explosiveness, a lot of excitement this season."
The Chiefs demand attention when it comes to offensive arsenal in the AFC West, but in Denver Lock finds himself with everything he needs to succeed.
So often in recent years it has been the Broncos defense that has spearheaded the team, but with the injury to star linebacker Von Miller there is an added onus on Lock and his new-look offense to combine effectively, starting against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
Some of the responsibility in that respect will rest on the shoulders of new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, whose job it is to exploit the blend of speed, precision and dynamism of a gifted but inexperienced offense.
He represents Sutton's third offensive coordinator in three years in the league, arriving after being fired as head coach of the New York Giants at the end of last season.
While the Gordon/Lindsay combination hints at a run-heavy offense, it's worth noting Shurmur's Giants offense passed on 64.23 per cent of plays in 2019 (second highest in the league) and 64.02 per cent of their plays in 2018 (fifth highest in the league). That was with a player like Saquon Barkley at his disposal.
The Broncos invested heavily in giving Lock weapons. They will not refrain from putting the ball in his hands.
That being said, Shurmur did come under criticism for how he utilised a player of Barkley's expertise, particularly prior to his injury last season. Can he find the right balance at Mile High?
"This is my third offensive coordinator which has been fun and there are growing pains that go with learning a new offense," said Sutton.
"You want to know and master it as well as you possibly can. So whenever you get to go out there and perform on Sunday you're putting your best foot forward.
"Learning coach Shurmur's offense has been a lot of fun and seeing how he's had success in other places with his offense gives us a lot of promise to know that it works and that all we have to do is trust in the process and understand he's going to put us in positions to be successful and go make plays.
"We have all the players to make plays at every position. We have all the pieces we need to be successful. It's just us going in and performing like we know how."
It remains to be seen if Sutton himself will be fit to feature on Monday after he suffered a shoulder injury during Thursday's practice session.
The Broncos ranked 28th in total offense last season. Between Lock, Shurmur and their new toys, that will have to change in 2020.
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