ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Before Drew Lock took his first snap Sunday, he was preparing for this moment in offseason mini-camps. He lived with rookie guard Dalton Risner. Lock would read plays into the voice memos on his phone, put on his headphones, play it back, step into the hall and call a play to simulate a huddle with a return to the line of scrimmage.
"I thought he was talking to himself," said Risner, who has become a close friend. "I am really proud for him, really proud for his family, really proud for his dad, Andy. I know they were all here and that was a big win for them, and I know Drew had a lot to prove after not going where he wanted in the draft. I'm excited for him.”
Lock celebrated his victorious debut by posing for pictures with fans outside the stadium and enjoying dinner with his parents and girlfriend. Now comes the hard part. Doing it again, but better.
The Broncos travel to Houston on Sunday, facing a team coming off an impressive victory over the Patriots. Houston is vulnerable in the passing game, having yielded 25 touchdowns with only six picks. Could the Broncos loosen up the offense for Lock, who was sharp when working off the 15-play script, but appeared handcuffed after the first quarter? The Broncos rank 31st in second half scoring with 79 points.
"I think (Lock) did fine yesterday, I really do. After watching the tape and seeing it all to where you can rewind it, he missed some throws from an accuracy standpoint. He missed some reads, but I think, overall, it was a good first game for him. I think anything more than that would be stretching it," coach Vic Fangio said. “I think the opening up thing and the so-called conservative label that I think some of you asked me after the game, you know, we had a third-and-1 and a third-and-2 that we thought the best way to go about it was running it. When you don’t make those, that is immediately what you start thinking. Whereas if you make those or at least one of them, now you can open it up. You establish some runs and you get a little play-pass in there. I don’t think we were conservative to the point of protecting him, you know what I’m saying?”
Lock completed 12 passes in the first 30 minutes, but went 6-for-9 for 11 yards after halftime. He showed good composure and impressed teammates with his confidence. It didn't hurt that second-year receiver Courtland Sutton made another push for the Pro Bowl, proving he can make a spicy dish out of goulash.
"He's a 'Baby Megatron,'" cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said of his comparison to former Lions great Calvin Johnson. "You always have a chance at the 50-50 ball with him."
Wolfe lost for season
Defensive end Derek Wolfe dislocated his left elbow in Sunday's win, ending his season. For Wolfe, it was hard to digest. He delivered two sacks, setting a new single-season best with seven. And just like that it was over on a play he believes should have been blown dead. Now, Wolfe, who will not require surgery, becomes a free agent with a desire to retire as a Bronco.
"I know. I'd hate for that to be my last game as a Bronco," Wolfe told Denver7. "That would break my heart."
Wolfe explained before the season that he was "made to play in this defense." He was right. He understood the scheme well, remained stout against the run and exploited rushing lanes. Wolfe, 29, is in the final season of a four-year, $36.7 million contract. He made $9 million this season. Asked if he wanted Wolfe back, Fangio replied, "Sure."
The Broncos face tough decisions on free agents. They have had conversations with Justin Simmons' agent and are expected to make a strong push to keep him, possibly this month. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will also hit the open market, and the sides could not agree on a longterm extension a year ago.
Fangio expects right tackle Ja'Wuan James to start this week, tough he will be on a play count. Fangio said James has to be "mentally and emotionally" ready to play after being physically cleared. James suffered a tear in his left MCL in the season-opener and has logged 32 snaps this year. Getting James healthy and back in the lineup is important for the Broncos' offensive line to improve this year and beyond. ... Von Miller's 95-consecutive games played streak was snapped because of a sore left knee. Fangio believes he will be ready this week at Houston.