DENVER — Will seven be heaven, ending the carousel of hell?
The Broncos continue considering a pocket change at quarterback, inserting their seventh starter since Peyton Manning retired. The list includes: Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen. One has produced a winning record, Siemian at 13-11.
Only one has matched the hype of Drew Lock, the next man possibly up. There was similar fandom for Paxton Lynch, who failed miserably, undermined by injuries, ineffectiveness and questions about his work ethic. Lock and Lynch were high draft picks. That's where the comparisons should end. Lock has been different from his arrival, exuding confidence and a chip on his shoulder after falling into the second round.
Lock was on track to backup Joe Flacco this season before spraining his thumb in August on a preseason scramble against the 49ers. He beat out Brett Rypien, the current No. 2, and Kevin Hogan. Not practicing for nearly 10 weeks set him back. The Broncos were trying to reach the playoffs, focused more on the now than the future. However, things have changed dramatically over the last month. Flacco was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a neck injury and has likely played his last snap for Denver. And Brandon Allen, after a promising debut against the Browns, has dropped two straight games, while completing 20 of 47 passes over his last six quarters. He bottomed out in the second half against Buffalo, posting four yards passing.
Coach Vic Fangio said Monday "all options are on the table" for Lock, including starting. I have stated Lock should start on social media and many radio spots on 104.3 The Fan. I have no vested interest in his success. For me, it just make sense. The Broncos are rebuilding. At 3-8, the last five games should serve as auditions at several positions. This includes quarterback. Start the evaluation process. If the Broncos believe, after seeing Lock, that they need to take a quarterback in the first round like Justin Herbert, so be it.
Those against Lock playing insist he will not be ready after nine practices. That he will have no chance behind the current leaky offensive line. That's fair. But that's where the scheme can protect him with shorter drops, quick hitters and a steady diet of runs by Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.
Here's the reality: We all know Lock will struggle. It will be messy. It won't be perfect. Expectations should be tempered. But getting reps now can microwave his development, and also provide a better read on his future. How he handles adversity, frankly, will go a long way in determining if he's a franchise-type starter. Remember, he played in the SEC in college for an undermanned Missouri team. He learned to survive and thrive through mistakes.
Interestingly, Lock has impressed teammates with his limited practice snaps since returning. Players don't make depth chart decisions. I get it. Still, players know players. Many have predicted to me over the years who would make it in the league and who would fail. It's not a perfect science. But, what they are seeing from Lock represents a positive sign.
"I like Drew. I'm excited to see him play whenever he gets an opportunity. I know everybody in Broncos Country is calling for him to play, but it's up to coach and Elway. I talked to Drew. He thinks he's ready," Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "That’s good hearing that from the player. Just talking to him, it seems like he's confident. That's good."
Lock has been getting eight-to-10 plays in practice the last two weeks. He has opened some eyes. What sticks out?
"His arm strength. And his confidence. His confidence is through the roof," receiver Tim Patrick said. "He's going to be a baller for sure."
Lock might not the be answer. But the question should no longer be whether to play him. It's time for Lock to get a look.