ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In his few years with the Broncos, Drew Lock has always seemed confident, but that doesn't mean he's always been comfortable.
That was most clear in 2020, when, in a world turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lock didn't have the usual full offseason to learn, adapt and get comfortable in a new system under Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur.
The result was an up-and-down season with some clearly impressive moments, like the four-touchdown, zero-interception outing vs. Carolina, as well as some head-scratching ones, like the four-interception, one-touchdown game against Las Vegas.
But as he enters his third NFL season, Lock does so in a novel situation that has him feeling more comfortable than he's felt in some time. This offseason, Lock's second in Shurmur's scheme, is the first time since his junior year of college that he's prepared for a season without having to learn a new offense under a new coordinator.
"Without a doubt," Lock said Tuesday when asked whether a second season with Shurmur has been as beneficial as he'd expected. "And we talked multiple times going into the last couple games of the year, even right after. We kind of started figuring each other out, and he's been extremely cooperative with what I say I like or what I say I don't like. He's meshed and we've meshed really, really well this offseason and added a couple new things he thinks might fit the style of game that we play. It's just been a really fun offseason to finally be able to fine-tune things, get the things we like, maybe talk about some things we're kind of half-and-half on, maybe throw that in a couple of the practices, get a couple extra reps on those where we feel really confident going into the year. … Yes, it feels very, very good to finally be in the same offense for a second time."
That first offseason preparing for a new offense came, unexpectedly, at perhaps the most difficult time. The COVID-19 pandemic upended the entire world's sense of normalcy, and that included the usual offseason program where NFL players begin settling back into work on the field with coaches.
Instead of getting hands-on instruction with Shurmur and Quarterbacks Coach Mike Shula, Lock participated in some small outdoor workouts organized with a handful of other teammates. At a time when Lock would normally be building timing and chemistry with new and veteran receivers, he didn't have the same opportunity.
A year later, Lock is finding how to be comfortable again, and he and the Broncos are reaping the benefits in these offseason workouts so far.
Take a look at some of the best photographs from the Broncos first day of mandatory minicamp.
"As far as having a little more time and reps under the belt with everybody, it does feel good," Lock said. "It feels right. It feels like I thought it would, where you go back — this is only my second time playing under the same offensive coordinator, and it just feels comfortable. You feel good going out there, you're excited to go out there every day. You get to make some sort of stride. You're not stagnant one day, you're not taking a couple steps back. You're making a stride somewhere. You don't necessarily always get to do that when you're trying to figure out and learn things for the first time."
At the day-to-day level, it's also afforded Lock and the offense the ability to focus on more than just getting a baseline understanding of the system. Instead, they can drill down into the finer points of execution, including trying to assess protections and adjusting for expected blitzes.
"I see a lot of things that we're building on, so to say, where we get to focus on some minor details now instead of maybe last year focusing on some bigger-picture things," Lock said. "I think that will help us be 10 times better in the long run."
At an individual level, Lock himself is also using the opportunity to evolve as a quarterback with his footwork in a way that he couldn't really explore when he was learning the offense in 2020. When he left college after the 2018 season, Lock prepared for plays with his right foot forward, then switched to playing with his left foot forward in his first two NFL seasons, though he and the Broncos attempted to make it more square recently.
"I was not ignorant to the fact, but Coach Shula tried to get me to change that earlier," Lock said. "Just as far as being comfortable and getting the plays out last year and whatnot, I kept that left foot forward. And with some time, he said, 'When you start practicing this offseason, let's switch it up to a little more square stance, get the feet firing a little quicker.'"
As minicamp nears its end and the Broncos prepare for an extensive period away from UCHealth Training Center before training camp, Lock will have few opportunities to continue to settle in before a heated training camp battle for the starting position gets underway. But Lock's resolve to continue his growth means that time away won't mean time off from the work necessary to be ready for the season.
"I'll maybe take a little bit of time, relax a couple days and then get right back to it," Lock said. "But my plan is to … [keep] the same kind of momentum and routine and schedule that I had during this offseason. It's going to be the same. I've just decided that I'm going to put my head down and keep grinding until this season is completely over. This is my job, this is my life and I want it to be for a very long time, and I want this city and this team to be successful, and that won't come without work."