ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Saturday, Aug. 29, second-year quarterback Drew Lock left Empower Field at Mile High frustrated at the way he and the Broncos' offense performed in a scrimmage-like scenario.
"I feel like if you find a quarterback that's not upset and hurt to the core after a practice where you kind of get your butt kicked, then you've got the wrong guy leading your team," Lock said after that uneven training-camp practice. "Of course, right now I'm upset. I would have rather played a lot better, but it's a learning moment for me."
Six days later, Lock and the Broncos returned to their home stadium for a final dress rehearsal — and Lock was far sharper. The offense moved efficiently, and Lock was accurate and impressive.
That wasn't by accident; over the final week of practice, Lock said something clicked for him and the offense. And, in the process, he rediscovered the confidence in himself that spurred the Broncos to a 4-1 mark to end the 2019 season.
"I think it happened probably two days before that scrimmage," Lock said Wednesday. "There's never really a moment in time — there's just that one moment where it clicks, and you don't understand why. I just felt going into that scrimmage that I knew where to go with the ball on every single play we were going to call. I just kind of re-found some confidence in myself. We came out, the guys around me made plays and we just clicked as an offense. We ended up rolling, and we all got on the same page at the same time. That's what you look for in an offense. When you're putting the game together, you want that from the defense as well at the same time. When you both mesh and get rolling on the same day, that's when it turns out pretty good. I feel like that's what we did. We just all got on the same page and got rolling."
The offense will try to stay hot when the Broncos return to Empower Field at Mile High on Monday for their season opener against the Titans. They could benefit from a small element of surprise, as the Titans have no film of Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's system with the Broncos' personnel. The Titans, though, have their own new addition in Jadeveon Clowney. And in any season opener, Lock said, there's always a level of unknown.
"I think the thing you're most anxious about is seeing how they come out and play you in the first game of the year," Lock said. "Are they going to do a lot of stuff they did last year or are they going to change it up? Who's playing what spot? They just picked Clowney up. Where are they going to play him? I think that's what we are most anxious for and we'll take it from there."
The second-year quarterback should be more comfortable than he was in his Week 13 start against the Chargers last year, but that necessarily doesn't come from any physical improvements or an in-game comfort level. Instead, Lock feels far more familiar with the lead-up to a game.
"I would think preparation," said Lock of the biggest stride he's taken. "Having those five games last year and knowing what it's going to take for me to go in and play my best game. That first game was kind of a crapshoot on how I wanted to prep and how I wanted to be ready and what it took to truly be ready mentally and physically, to where I got to that fifth game. I kind of had the repetition down now, and I definitely didn't forget it going into this first game. I'll try to keep that rolling and be the most ready I can be. I feel like having those reps last year really helped me this year going into this first game."
If Lock can bottle that success for Monday's game against the Titans, the Broncos could be in position to earn their eighth-consecutive win in a home season opener.
TALIB HANGS 'EM UP
Former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib announced his retirement Wednesday, and safety Justin Simmons shared his appreciation for the perennial Pro Bowler.
"Aqib — getting to know him, man — he was such a big part of the type of player that I am now, talking about how I study film," Simmons said. "… Talking about Aqib, he's one of those guys that you just love to have on your team, always has your back. He's had a heck of a career — 35 picks. I think it's 10 touchdowns. I'm honesty surprised he didn't stick around a couple more years to try and get the touchdown record. I'm happy for him, man. I know he's left such a huge impact on so many guys, myself included. I'm happy for him — a heck of a career. I'm honored and blessed to be able to say I played with him for … two years."
Simmons also credited former Broncos Chris Harris Jr., Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby for their influence on him.
For more on Talib's impressive career, click here.
NOT ABOUT THE MONEY
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a lucrative extension this week, but Lock isn't focused on a hypothetical windfall that would be several years away. Instead, the 2019 second-round pick is focused on the quality of his play — which is undoubtedly the deciding factor in his NFL future.
"Quarterback money keeps going up, but thinking about money down the road isn't going to help me on Monday [to] win this game and better yet this season," Lock said. "I have to earn that type of money first, and just winning four out of my five games in my rookie season won't do that. I have to go out there and keep playing and be great for this team."
A 'MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL' REUNION
Defensive end Jurrell Casey will face his former team on Monday night, and it's clear the five-time Pro Bowler still has the respect of his former head coach.
"I've got nothing but the utmost respect for Jurrell in the time that I spent here with him and the impact he's made on our organization," Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told Denver media on Wednesday. "This isn't the first or the last time a player has faced his [former] team the next year. We're familiar with that and he's familiar with us and our personnel. He'll certainly be someone that we'll have to block and be aware of. But again, nothing but the utmost respect for how he played and his leadership since I've been here."
Casey joined the Broncos in March when the team acquired him from the Titans for a seventh-round pick.