ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Who won and who lost the Day 1 quarterback contest is subject to discussion.
What is indisputable is Drew Lock threw the pass of the day.
It was near the end of 2-hour practice on a sunny, warm Wednesday morning before 874 fans who gathered at the UCHealth Training Center for the opening of Broncos’ training camp. Playing with the first-team offense, Lock scrambled a bit left, set and fired a dart deep downfield. The ball hummed. It seemed to rise about halfway down its path. The ball travelled past and over a couple defenders who were zig-zagging across the field when the pass smacked receiver Jerry Jeudy in the gut on a 25-yard in-cut. Jeudy may or may not have taken the ball in for a touchdown. It’s hard to tell in a non-contact practice.
But the throw was one only Lock could make. Teddy Bridgewater can’t make that throw. Brett Rypien can’t make it. That doesn’t mean Lock will win the right to become the Broncos’ starting quarterback in the season opener Sept. 12 against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. It just means if Lock isn’t the starter, a lot of talent will be parked on the Broncos’ bench.
"If anything I would say it’s motivating," Lock said of the competition after practice Wednesday. "Everyone talks about staying focused, controlling what you can control. My idea is to come out with high energy every single day. Focus on me, make the plays when they come to me when I’m in there, and congratulate Teddy when he makes a great play and we’ll talk about it when I make a bad play, or he makes a bad play. …
"The main goal, besides this competition, is to start winning game here. I think we can do that with this team we have. It’s just a different feeling around this building right now. And it’s really fun to be a part of."
The QB competition, which is between Lock and Bridgewater and meaning no disrespect to Rypien, started during the offseason training activities (OTAs) and minicamp practices in May and June. But head coach Vic Fangio said 97 percent of the battle would be decided during training camp and the preseason. Fangio said he noticed a little difference in the QB performances from Day 1 of training camp compared to those in OTAs.
"Just a little bit more (vim) and vinegar out there," Fangio said.
If Lock won the day, it was because that final throw to Jeudy broke a tie. It’s also worth noting Lock primarily practiced with the No. 1 offense while Bridgewater took most of his team snaps with the No. 2s. The QBs will flip for day 2 on Thursday. Should the evaluation be different when the quarterbacks practice with the second-stringers, as opposed to the starters?
"That’s a good question," Bridgewater said. "I leave that to the coaches and the decision makers. It’s all about maximizing reps. And getting your unit to the end zone. Moving the ball and being efficient. Whether you’re with the 2s, the 3s, if you got to throw to the equipment manager, to the folks serving us food in the cafeteria, you just want to be efficient. And the decision-makers will make that decision based on the things that they see.
"You never look at it that, 'Hey man, I’m in here with the 3s or 2s.' No, those guys are fighting just like me to earn spots on the team. So every rep with them counts, every rep with 1s counts, every rep with the 3s count."
Lock is thankful he can still count, much less compete for an NFL starting job that has been his the past year-plus. He avoided injury from a frightening accident six weeks ago while driving along Interstate 70 in Kansas with the intention of heading to Denver. From across the median, a vehicle blew out a tire that started bouncing right at Lock’s car. He avoided the tire, but a lug nut from the bouncing stray shook loose and pulverized Lock’s front windshield. Lock pulled over and was assisted by state troopers.
"That was insane," Lock said. "I was extremely scared. I took a moment there for about 30 minutes to kind of realize what happened. How severe it could have been. … Yeah, it was pretty scary. But props to the people there helping me. Being able to take me back, get me situated, wait for my dad to come get me. Went back to Kansas City for a couple more days. Was planning on being here in Denver, that’s obviously where I was going. But went back to Kansas City, had a few more dinners with the family and relaxed with them for a couple days. That was a little intense."
Lock wasn’t hurt. He settled. Back to the competition. He was asked if he believed he should be the starter?
"I think I’m going to come out here every day and practice my butt off and give everything I can for this team and this state," Lock said. "For everybody in that building whose lives, jobs, families depend on it."
Whoa. Besides a selfless eagerness, Lock must cut down on his interceptions if he’s going to win it. He tied for the league-most last season with 15. That doesn’t mean playing safer. It does mean playing smarter.
"I do know better now when to check it down, when to take the 5 yards, when to take the 3 yards and that’s obviously been stressed to me in the building," Lock said. "The gunslinger mentality can still be there, but it’s got to be a calculated gunslinger."
That in-cut pass to Jeudy will do.
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