ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With four games to play in 2020, Drew Lock has no doubts about where he needs to make strides.
After throwing 13 interceptions over his last seven starts, the 2019 second-round pick knows better play begins and ends with avoiding turnovers.
So while he faced questions Wednesday about whether he needs to make more intermediate passes or if he should target his running backs more in the passing game, Lock steered the conversation to his ability to protect the football.
"I think I need to take better care of the football, for sure," Lock said. "That's number one."
Lock, who will make the 15th start of his career in Carolina this weekend, did acknowledge there were times when he should take a checkdown pass and others when he needs to take a risk.
In the Broncos' tough 2020, though, there have been times when those risks have been made unnecessarily. Lock said he's tried to learn from each turnover and that he'll study an interception more than a more routine play.
"I'll go back and watch those a couple times," Lock said. "They hurt. They sting. They're big points in the game and you know that they're ones that you want back. So, it's tough to go back and watch that multiple times, but you have to. You have to learn from it and see where your mistakes are coming from and know when to not make those mistakes. It just goes back to when those first look, second look, or maybe even the third look aren't there, it's time to get to the fourth look and check it down if you have to. It's something that I'm still developing, but I feel like I'm also getting better with time. It's just about making that right decision 100 percent of time. At the quarterback position, you make two errant throws that force picks in that last game and that's two too many. So, just got to keep focusing on it and keep making the right decision with the ball."
Lock said he's not concerned with his passing totals so long as the Broncos start to win more consistently, but he acknowledged that begins by staying on the field and finding completions. And even less than a full season of starts into his professional career, he's impatient for his team to find that success.
"We live in a world now where everyone wants everything really fast," Lock said. "Everyone wants it right now. We get that with our phones. You want to click on an app, it's going to pop up instantly. It's the same thing in football. You want greatness really, really fast. I want it, trust me. I want to be great as bad as the people at home watching want me to be great. I want it more than they want it. It's about me finding ways throughout the week to just keep getting better. It's going to happen. It's slowly happening. We're going to make a big jump this week, just by [practicing] this week. We need to focus up, get ready for this game against Carolina. Trust me, as bad as people want it from me, I've always wanted it more. I'm trying everything I can to keep this thing rolling."
'JERRY'S IN A GOOD SPOT'
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy took to Twitter after the Broncos' loss to the Chiefs in which he only had one catch, but Fangio said he wasn't concerned with Jeudy's apparent frustration and that he doesn't think the young player has hit the proverbial rookie wall.
"I don't think he's hit the wall at all," Fangio said. "I think he'd just like to have more catches, and I don't know of any receiver that doesn't feel that way. I'm glad he's a little frustrated that he's not getting more production. We want our guys to feel that way. I don't know what he said or didn't say on Twitter, but I'm OK with Jerry. Jerry's in a good spot."
Lock added that he was glad to have a receiver that wanted the ball in his hands and that he expects the two will connect more often in future games.
"If he's happy about not getting the amount of balls that he wants, then there's something going on there," Lock said. "You want a receiver that wants the ball. You want a guy that wants it in his hand and wants to make plays. That's what we like about Jerry. He wants the ball in any situation —the beginning of the game or crunch time towards the end. People play him a certain way, and you go throughout the game and you make your reads. Sometimes you don't end up getting to him, and sometimes you hit the guy. He could have been the second person on the read, but one was open. It's how the game flows, and I know he's learning that right now. As a receiver in this league, there are times where it's tough to get the ball every once in a while. It's about fighting through those games and getting ready to practice the next week and go into the next one thinking you're going to catch 15 that game. [It's about] just being ready for that opportunity for the next Sunday."
BOUYE TO MISS REMAINDER OF 2020
Cornerback A.J. Bouye faces a six-game suspension due to a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy, which means he will miss the final four games of 2020 and the first two games of 2021.
Fangio said he was "disappointed" for Bouye after learning of the news. Bouye first approached Fangio a couple of weeks ago to let him know a suspension might be on its way, but the team didn't know when it would be levied.
"Players have to make really, really good judgments with the people they trust with their career and with their finances," Fangio said. "Obviously, something went wrong with this person that he dealt with and trusted. It's a disappointing situation for everybody."
Bouye, whom the Broncos acquired this offseason for a fourth-round pick, appeared in just seven games in his first year in Denver.
"He did have a choppy season," Fangio said. "I think the injuries played a part in it. I think he got hurt in the first half of the first game, then missed five or six games, came back, got hurt during that game, missed the following game. ... These last couple games he was starting to play better. We'll just have to see, but it was a rough season for him with the injuries interrupting his availability and play, and now having to deal with the PED suspension."
PARKS RETURNS TO DENVER
Defensive Will Parks practiced Wednesday in his new No. 27 jersey, and he told the media before the session that he feels like he hasn't "missed a beat."
Parks said he feels comfortable returning to the Broncos' system, and he has something to prove after being waived by the Eagles midway through his first season in Philadelphia.
"I don't know if y'all know, [but] I felt a little bit disrespected from a lot of people," Parks said. "I'm not taking nothing lightly. I'm not smearing nobody. All I want to do is go out there and show that I can help the team win in the best way possible but at the same time understanding the fact that I felt disrespected. I'm motivated to a level that I've never been motivated before. So, that's all I have to say as far as that goes."
BATTLE IN THE RED ZONE
The Carolina Panthers average the 10th-most yards per play in the NFL and have given the ball away just 13 times this season — compared to Denver's 28 turnovers — but they've averaged just 23.3 points per game in 2020, which ranks 21st in the NFL.
In part, the struggle to score stems from their difficulty in the red zone, where they've scored touchdowns on just 55 percent of their trips. That rate is tied for 25th in the league — and it may not be much easier this week for Carolina. Denver's defense ranks second in the league in the red zone and held the Chiefs without a touchdown in their four trips on "Sunday Night Football."
"Nothing's easy," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said of facing Fangio's defense. "They're going to challenge you in the run game, challenge you in the passing game. They have the ability to get pressure on the quarterback, which to me is what makes or breaks teams in the NFL. And it's an outstanding situational defense. No.  in the NFL right now in red-zone defense, and that's really been our Achilles heel — scoring touchdowns as opposed to field goals. To me, the real battle of this game will be what happens when we're down in the red zone vs. Coach Fangio's defense."
The Broncos will also need to take advantage when their own offense is in the red zone. They were 2-for-2 against the Chiefs, but rank 28th in the league and will face the Panthers' 11th-ranked red-zone defense.