ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After practicing for the second consecutive day as a full participant, quarterback Drew Lock could be poised to return to the Broncos' starting lineup.
"He definitely could start on Sunday as he looks now," Fangio said after Thursday's practice.
Fangio declined to officially name Lock the starter for Sunday's game, but he said the second-year player practiced well on Thursday and hasn't had any soreness or setbacks.
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Lock "looks good out there running around and throwing" and that he has succeeded in executing the team's plan for Sunday's game.
Despite Lock returning from an injury, Shurmur said the team would have to trust his ability to run a set of plays that won't simply rely upon the short-passing game.
"When you go out and play, you have to trust them to execute the plays that we call," Shurmur said. "Certainly, not everything is going to be a short drop and a short throw, so you just have to trust yourself and go out and play and try to execute in a way that he thinks is necessary."
Lock said Wednesday that his shoulder felt "really good," so it appears the Missouri product would not be limited from a physical perspective. Regardless of his physical ability, he should bring a "swagger" back to Denver's offense.
"I think that Drew brings sort of a confidence to the offense and a swagger that I'm sure you've seen out there on the field whenever he makes good plays," guard Dalton Risner said. "The presence he has in the huddle, he's confident, he's not too high, he's not too low. You know that when he's in there there's a chance for a big play, and you know that if there's a busted coverage or if there's a seven-man blitz then there is an opportunity for Drew to make a play.
"… I think that gives everyone on the offense a bit more confidence."
Lock missed a few deep-shot opportunities against the Titans but seemed poised to remedy those miscues against the Steelers. On Sunday in New England, he may get the chance to show the ability that has been sidelined over the last several weeks.
After struggling with holding penalties during the first three years of his career and having the Broncos decline his fifth-year option this offseason, Garett Bolles has responded in a major way.
The fourth-year player has earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any Broncos player this season, and he's impressed his coaches and teammates alike.
"I certainly haven't seen what everybody else saw prior to me getting here," Shurmur said Thursday. "I've been pleased with what he's done. He's tough, durable and knows what he's doing. He's been very effective here in the first quarter of the season. Watching him train, I think he's encouraged to keep that going and that's a really good thing. I certainly don't have the view of him that the people here have of him. Guys are allowed to change, guys are allowed to improve, and guys are allowed to produce at a higher level than they did in the past. I think he's done all of those things."
Added Risner: "There isn't one guy on a team that I want to see succeed more than Garett Bolles. He's been through it. Very little people have supported him or believed in him when things were tough, and I hate to say it. Garett's showing everybody what he's made of and he's showing everybody that you shouldn't talk bad about him."
Melvin Gordon III returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session, and Fangio said he had "a couple discussions" with Gordon on Wednesday and Thursday.
Fangio said Gordon's status for the game remains uncertain.
"Obviously it's a matter that is going to be punished pretty strongly from the league standpoint," Fangio said. "We're working through from our standpoint if we are going to do much more than what the league will do, because what will the league will do will be pretty substantial, because that's something that's negotiated in the CBA. We'll make a decision as it relates to us by game time."
Fangio said he expected the league to "withhold their actions" until Gordon's case makes its way through the judicial system.
Phillip Lindsay is expected to play against the Patriots for the first time since suffering a toe injury against the Titans, but Fangio said the team will have to monitor his snaps.
"We'll keep an eye on him," Fangio said. "When you've been out of action for as long as he has been — and for the first two or three weeks after he was hurt, he did pretty much next to nothing football-related. Last week, he got back into practice full-go and the same this week. I think we'll have to be smart in how we use him. A lot of that depends on how your drives go, how many carries he's been getting in a short amount of time, etc. I don't think there is a perfect formula other than being aware that he probably can't play a full load anyway."