ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Quarterback Drew Lock fought through ineffectiveness and illness to illustrate why he should be considered 'The Guy' moving forward.
Four games remains a sample size, but Lock's cameo has brought into focus why the Broncos are increasingly warming to the idea of him as their future. Lock boasts a 3-1 record, completing 83 of 128 passes for 843 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He has morphed from gunslinger to game manager when necessary, and narrowing the prism, has shown he can rebound from his worst outing and battle through sickness and triumph.
First-year coach Vic Fangio has noticed. Fangio is the first to admit that short bursts from rookie quarterbacks can create a false positive. But he sees something more from Lock.
"He's done enough to definitely show he could be the guy," Fangio said to my question. "And we are looking for that to be the case."
There are layers to the optimism. It starts with Lock's talent. He was a projected first-round pick for a reason. Few possess his fastball, or his experience at the position in college. What the Broncos didn't know was how he would respond to coaching. His humility has been refreshing. While he was admittedly swimming mental in training camp trying to digest everything, the 10-week down time, while probably longer than necessary, accelerated his development.
"It really benefited him," Fangio said.
Lock slowed down the process, learned from virtual reality while seeing replayed practices through Joe Flacco's helmet, and immersed himself in the playbook without the pressure of performing. Lock also used the injury interruption to polish his footwork and throwing mechanics, both have which have improved.
The final piece that brings fans hope is Lock's confidence. Teammates respond to him and his demeanor. He plays with childlike enthusiasm as if he were in the backyard with his best friends. He's not afraid to celebrate, talk trash or voice his opinion.
"His swagger is contagious," receiver Tim Patrick said. "He's the kind of guy you want to follow."
Added fellow first-year player Dre'Mont Jones with a smile at the end, "His calm demeanor and playing style expresses confidence in all of us. He's a leader and is coming into his own for an old-(bleep) rookie."
Lock owns the best touchdown-to-attempt ratio and top touchdown-to-interception split of any of the seven starters since Peyton Manning retired. It is four games. However, he has beaten a division foe in the Chargers. He carved up a playoff team in Houston. And he rebounded like Dennis Rodman after an ugly outing against the Chiefs in his homecoming, connecting on 25 of 33 passes on Sunday, showing restraint and a willingness to stay off the throttle in the highway work zone.
"He's playing good, and he can play better," Fangio said. "He's had many experiences he can bank. He went against a great team (in the Chiefs). Things didn't go well, and I liked the way he handled it."
The Broncos ultimately had 10 players dealing with the flu and illness over the last two weeks. Rookie left guard Dalton Risner had it the worst. But others affected included Lock, Courtland Sutton, Von Miller, Kyle Peko and Connor McGovern. ... Fangio said it's uncertain if Elijah Wilkinson (left ankle) will play in the season finale. If not Jake Rodgers is a candidate since there's no indication that Ja'Wuan James (sprained MCL left knee) will play after not practicing the last two weeks. ... Chad Morris stepped in nicely at right guard for Risner. He brings versatility to the line as a center and guard, and has impressed in practice with his intensity.