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Here's why facing the Los Angeles Chargers gives Drew Lock a chance to show progress

Andrew Mason Avatar
December 30, 2021

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — What is likely to be Drew Lock’s second start of the season and the 20th of a star-crossed three years in Denver offers a chance for him to test his progress against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that has struggled against the pass and seen its issues multiply in recent weeks.

But he knows that if these games are to do anything for him in terms of altering his career arc, it starts not with eye-popping numbers for him, but a win. That starts with leadership.

And it’s not about demonstrating that to Broncos decision-makers. Rather, it’s about showing the to his teammates.

“I think the most important thing is to show the guys around me, as far as players, the offensive line, the tight ends, the wide receivers, the defense and to show myself,” Lock said Wednesday. “Whether or not the Broncos look at it in whatever light they may, that’s up to them. That’s talk for after the season.

“It’s really on my mind to go out and play this game well, get a win for this for this team, this state, for this organization. Then whatever it may be as far as analyzing my play, we’ll let that ride until the end of this year.”

With Teddy Bridgewater unlikely to play as he continues to recover from a Dec. 19 concussion, Lock is expected to make his second consecutive start, even though he was limited in practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury.

So, Lock will get a chance against a Chargers defense that welcomes back edge rusher Joey Bosa from the COVID-19 list and should have safety Derwin James back from injury, but could play without cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Nasir Adderley if neither can be cleared off of the COVID-19 list in time for Sunday.

But over the course of the season, Los Angeles’ pass defense ranks 23rd in first-down rate — giving up one first down every 2.50 pass plays — and 22nd in rate of gains of 20 or more yards allowed and 25th in rate passes of at least 40 yards permitted.

It is an opportunity to build off of what worked in Las Vegas.

What did work was the play-action game, which led to Lock’s two longest completions: a 40-yard strike to Jerry Jeudy and a 20-yard connection to Noah Fant. Given Lock’s play-action proficiency in 2020 — demonstrated again in preseason play last August — the success was not a surprise.

“It also gives me a little space to move around the pocket,” Lock said. “When you move the pocket a little bit on certain play-action passes, when you end up taking seven steps out from under center or sometimes eight or nine. It just allows me to kind of be fluid, move around, help us out in the pocket, to let these guys start running around.”

Jeudy, in particular, had his longest gain of the season with his second-quarter reception from Lock, which set up Brandon McManus’ first field goal of the contest. It was also the longest reception by a Broncos wide receiver since Tim Patrick’s touchdown catch at Dallas in Week 9.

With Patrick out Sunday after landing on the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday, Lock will lean on Jeudy more than ever, and he knows that he will get the second-year receiver involved.

“It would mean a lot to the whole offense. You’ve got a playmaker like that, when you get him the ball in space and let him do what he does best, he’s the best route runner I’ve ever seen,” Lock said. “He’s one of the best route runners in this league. I think we should take advantage of it, and I know he wants us to do that.

“… If it were to be a big week for Jerry, it wouldn’t surprise any of us on this team. We know he’s ready whenever his number gets called. If his number gets called a little bit more this week, then he’ll be ready for it too.”

Taking proper advantage of the Chargers’ shaky pass defense could likely rely on getting the football to Jeudy early — and often. That could allow Lock the chance for a performance that pumps energy into his long-term prospects, whether they be in Denver or elsewhere.

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