Position Battles: Quarterback

Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgewater

There is plenty of controversy surrounding the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos going into the 2021 season. In fact, the Broncos QB position has become so polarized, that you might be better off discussing political hot topics with Broncos fans than you would be discussing quarterback for the upcoming season. Today, however, we will attempt to bring some logic and new ideas to the Broncos QB conundrum for 2021.

For this Position Battle series, we are assuming no new faces joining the Broncos either via free agency or trade. So, Aaron Rodgers is not included on the Broncos roster for this exercise – sorry Broncos Country.

Drew Lock

The Broncos answer at quarterback will start with Drew Lock – he is the incumbent starting QB currently on the roster. Lock has shown improvement and flashes of success but ended the 2020 season as one of the worst statistical quarterbacks in the league last year. It is impossible to ignore the poor statistics Lock put up in this past season: 35th in completion percentage (57.3%), 1st in interceptions (15), 23rd in TDs (16), 32nd in QB Rating (75.4), and 29th in QBR (48.8). Also, Pro Football Focus has Lock rated as the 33rd best Quarterback headed into the 2021 season. With those statistics it is easy to see why Lock faces such scrutiny from Broncos Country and the national press as well. There is no doubt that Lock will need to improve immensely for the Broncos to have success in 2021.

Now, to be fair to Drew Lock, it is safe to say that Lock got a raw deal in 2020. First, the lack of offseason hurt him, especially in a new system. Side note: I have heard the argument that Justin Herbert was in the same boat of no offseason, but still had an incredible season. The difference with Herbert would be the pieces surrounding him were veterans for the most part, who know there roles well. Pieces that included one of the best receivers in the league in Keenan Allen. The Chargers also were not in the first year in their offensive system with a new offensive coordinator. Lock had both rookie receivers in Jeudy and Hamler, as well as a new offensive system that no one was familiar with and had no offseason to learn it.

Another tough break for Lock in 2020 was the injury of Courtland Sutton – a guy Lock depended on for easy completions down the field with 50/50 balls. Finally, the group of young players around Lock did him no favors, especially in a new system. All that said, Lock did show flashes of improvement and good games in the last half of the 2020 season. The Missouri QB threw 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions in the last four games. Lock also had the 8th lowest sack percentage last year, which means Lock is avoiding sacks. Some might think that is more of an offensive line stat, however the offensive line for the Broncos did not pass block all that well, ranking 21st in the league according to PFF. Lock also had the fourth highest percentage of his passes dropped in 2020 at 5.8% according to Pro Football Reference. Finally, Lock had a 6.4% big-time throw rate according to PFF, which ranked seventh among quarterbacks last year. So, Drew certainly possesses the potential to be a good quarterback, especially when you consider his arm strength and mobility. But he must cut back on the turnovers and quicken his reads in the pocket.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater is the savvy veteran challenging Lock for the starting job this season. The 28-year-old journeyman quarterback is coming off a year with the Panthers in which he ranked 5th in completion percentage (69.1%), 9th in interceptions (11), 24th in TDs (15), 22nd in QB rating (92.1), and 17th in QBR (64.2). PFF ranks Bridgewater as the 29th best quarterback. You could classify Teddy’s fifth year in the league as up-and-down. Although it was a career high in touchdowns for Bridgewater last year with 15, that is not all that impressive of a number for playing fifteen games in a season.

Teddy is seen as an average or slightly below average quarterback around most of the league at this point in his career. Bridgewater did make the Pro Bowl with the Vikings in 2015, but his statistics that year were not very jaw dropping – 14 TDs to 9 interceptions. Since then, Bridgewater had a brutal leg injury that almost cost him his leg in 2016, then bounced around from Minnesota to New Orleans, to Carolina last season, and now to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick. Because all the Broncos had to give up was a sixth-round pick for Teddy Bridgewater, it is safe to say that the NFL does not put a high value on the veteran right now. That is not to say that he couldn’t contribute as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but that we already know what Teddy Bridgewater’s ceiling is. His best strengths are not turning the ball over, managing the game, taking the open throw, and he can also escape for some first downs and touchdowns with his legs as well. Teddy’s negatives are that he can at times struggle with throwing the deep ball, arm strength to the sidelines, and tends to throw the ball away or tuck and run prematurely.

Determining Factors

There is no doubt that the Broncos front office and coaching staff will want Drew Lock to take and win this position battle over Teddy Bridgewater. If he did, then it would mean that Lock progressed from last season and could finally start to realize some of that potential that he has. On the other hand, if Bridgewater wins the competition this offseason, then the front office can most likely assume that they can move on from Lock and look for their next young QB in the 2022 NFL draft.

With the first 18 starts in the NFL and tough breaks during the 2020 season, it is safe to say that we have seen the worst of Drew Lock already. If that is the case, then if you are the Broncos, you want to see what the true upside is for Drew Lock. Can he eventually climb into the top ten quarterbacks in the league like Josh Allen did? Or is Lock’s ceiling a middle or low tier quarterback who will always struggle with inconsistency and turnovers? The Broncos and the whole NFL knows what Teddy Bridgewater is at this point – a mostly average quarterback who can make some plays and keep you in games but will not be carrying your team to victory.

Other factors to consider are that Bridgewater is familiar with Pat Shurmur’s offense since he was with Shurmur in Minnesota in 2017, so it should not take long for Teddy to get up to speed this offseason. He has also shown good chemistry with Jerry Jeudy so far this offseason, while Lock has shown great chemistry with Courtland Sutton over the time on the field these past two years.

Overall, this 2021 Denver Broncos roster is too good to waste with poor quarterback play. The Broncos will have one of the best defenses in the NFL and offensive playmakers at every spot in 2021. It should not take more than average quarterback play this season to get the Broncos back into the playoffs as a wild card team.

Because of the potential upside Drew Lock has, look for him to be the favorite to win the QB job at least to start the season. However, if he struggles during training camp and especially during the season, the coaching staff will be quick to turn to the trusted veteran in Bridgewater.

Projected Day 1 Starter: Drew Lock

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