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Ask Aric: How does Drew Lock's performance vs. Carolina stack up to his big day in Houston?

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Welcome to a Drew Lock edition of "Ask Aric."

After Lock threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Panthers, many members of Broncos Country wanted to know how Lock's performance stacked up against the other games early in his career and what it may mean for his future.

We'll also delve into questions about Phillip Lindsay, Netane Muti, John Lynch and more.

If you'd like to ask a question for a future mailbag, click here.

After a career game [for Drew Lock] against the Panthers, how would you compare it to the game last year against the Texans? - Cordaleray B.

This one is more impressive, in my eyes. From a statistical perspective, Lock posted a better game against the Panthers as he threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions after throwing for three scores and an interception against the Texans. His yardage total was slightly higher in Houston, as he threw for 309 yards against the Texans compared to 280 yards in Charlotte. His 149.5 quarterback rating, though, was higher than his 136.0 rating in Houston. I also think the quality and consistency of his play was better in Carolina. The game in Houston was truly a first-half explosion, as the Broncos scored 31 of their 38 points before the break. The Panthers' defense was also slightly better, as they ranked 16th in scoring defense and 19th in passing defense heading into the game. The Texans, meanwhile, were 17th in scoring defense and 28th in passing defense. Finally, I think there was more pressure on Lock in Carolina. The Houston game was his first road start, and the expectations weren't unreasonable. The Texans were heavily favored and few outside of the Broncos' building expected Lock to go out and win the game. Last weekend against Carolina, Lock faced the pressure of needing to prove himself for 2021. His response was impressive. Regardless of which performance you choose, it's clear Week 14 is good to Drew Lock.

Now that Drew Lock has revealed some of his potential, what will it take for him to stay consistent? Any specific stat line other than giveaways? - Dave B.

Completion percentage. Lock had completed just 55.4 percent of his passes heading into Sunday's win, and he bumped that number all the way up to 77.8 percent for the team's Week 14 game. More completions means more opportunities for the Broncos' playmakers to get the ball in their hands, which leads to a higher time of possession, more first downs and — ultimately — points. The jump in completion percentage wasn't by accident, and it doesn't have to be an outlier. Lock took advantage of the screen game and short passing game to get the ball to his weapons in space, and that later opened up plays down the field. On the play before his 49-yard bomb to Hamler, he found Melvin Gordon on a dump-off that became a 20-yard gain. It's clear his plan of quick passes with an occasional deep ball kept Carolina off guard, and he should be able to replicate that moving forward. Taking care of the ball, as you mentioned, remains just as important.

What are [Lock's] thoughts about the Bills coming to town and what kind of game will they need to have to win? - Chris F.

You can find Lock's thoughts from Wednesday's press conference on DenverBroncos.com, but his game plan should be similar to the one from this week: avoid throwing interceptions, take the short passes and try to connect deep when possible. That won't be as easy against a Buffalo defense that has given up only 37 passes of at least 20 yards this season. That ranks 21st in the league, so Lock may need to show even more patience this week. Lock will also see a defense that is among the league's best at taking the ball away. Buffalo ranks fourth in takeaways and ninth in interceptions. Against the league's 10th-ranked scoring offense, Lock will need to help his team keep pace. He can't, however, stray away from what helped him find success against Carolina.

Do you think the Broncos will take a quarterback in the first round since we'll have a high pick in the draft. — Lester C.

Lester, I'd be surprised. The Broncos would currently hold the 13th-overall pick in April's NFL Draft, which means they'd probably have the third- or fourth-best quarterback option available to them unless they trade up. Is that player likely to be a better option for Denver than Lock, who would be in his second year of the system? I'd argue that's not likely to be the case. If the Broncos believe Lock has turned a corner and can continue to progress, they'd be better served to take an impact player with that pick. Aaron Donald is just one player who was recently taken with the 13th-overall selection. Wouldn't it be nice to add a player of his caliber? The final three weeks of the season could shape the Broncos' thoughts, and it's quite possible the Broncos reshape their quarterback room in some way. Using their first-round pick on a signal-caller, though, seems unlikely.

With the way Melvin Gordon is playing right now, what do you think the Broncos will do with Philip Lindsay? - Nick L.

Nick, Gordon's stretch of success has been impressive, as he's averaging 4.6 yards per carry this year and has clearly rebounded from a tough 2019. Gordon has carried the ball 162 times this year, which is the same number of carries he had all of last year. He has 141 more yards this year. Returning to your question, though, the Broncos have made it clear that they want at least two capable running backs. The Broncos could extend Lindsay's contract, but they could also place a tender on him to keep him in Denver in 2021 and then reevaluate their options. Lindsay will be a restricted free agent, which means the Broncos can place a first-, second- or late-round tender on him. If another team offers a contract to Lindsay, the Broncos would be able to match that deal or they would receive the corresponding draft pick as compensation. I'd expect a second-round tender makes sense for the former Pro Bowler.

What's the word on Muti for the offensive line. I thought I saw him suited up one game. No sign of him on the field as of yet. I thought he had great promise. With some injuries at guard I thought he may have got a chance by now. - Todd P.

Todd submitted this question before Sunday's game, and it's clear that he's at least a bit prescient. Muti made his first career start against the Panthers, and he largely held up well. Lock was pressured a few times, but that's to be expected. Muti was able to make some nice blocks out in space in the run game and screen game, and his athleticism and talent were on display. Muti's ability was never in question during the draft process, as he earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a redshirt freshman at Fresno State. The issue, rather, was a lengthy injury history. If the Broncos' offensive line gets back to full strength this week, we'll have to wait and see if Muti gets another opportunity before the end of the year. At the very least, his future as a quality reserve player seems bright.

[Will John] Lynch [enter the] HOF as a Bronco or Buccaneer? - Jay

Jay, the Pro Football Hall of Fame operates differently than the Baseball Hall of Fame, which means Lynch won't have to decide between the Bucs and Broncos when he — *knock on wood* — gets into the Hall. Lynch, a Broncos Ring of Famer, certainly left his mark in the Mile High City. He was a four-time Pro Bowler in Denver, where he intercepted three passes and forced nine fumbles. He recorded an impressive 271 tackles and seven sacks in Denver to accompany five Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro nods from Tampa. Lynch was a finalist for the seventh time in 2020, and he is a semifinalist for the Class of 2021. He'll face tough competition again this year — including from Peyton Manning, who figures to be a shoo-in first-ballot selection — but nearly every player to be named a finalist as many times as Lynch has eventually gotten a knock on the door to enter the Hall. Let's hope the same is true for Lynch.

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