ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Head Coach Vic Fangio declined to name a starting quarterback on Wednesday for this week's game against the Chargers, but rookie quarterback Drew Lock appears poised to have every opportunity to earn the job.
"We're going to up Drew's reps this week extensively in practice, see how he does with that and then make a decision prior to the game," Fangio said.
Fangio estimated that Lock will take 75 percent of the practice reps as the coaching staff aims to evaluate if he's ready to start. Brandon Allen, who has started the last three games for Denver, could also potentially start for the team.
"[I] just feel like [Lock has] had a couple good weeks of limited practices and … I think he's ready to advance in his reps and let's see where he's at," Fangio said Wednesday. "When you're getting eight to 10 [reps per practice] with the offense, it's not a great look, but he passed those and let's see where he's at with getting more."
Allen said a reduction in reps would be "tough" if he ends up starting, but he's learned over his NFL career how to prepare via mental reps.
"Obviously, getting the reps is one thing and it helps to be in there and see the plays and throw them and all that," Allen said. "I've been doing this for three years taking mental reps, so I've gotten pretty good at that. I'll be back there when I'm not in there taking those mental reps and getting the best that I can out of those."
The Broncos' head coach said he spoke with Lock, and the second-round pick said he was ready to move forward.
"It gets to the point where you just can't take not doing anything anymore," Lock told the media when asked why he thinks he's ready. "That hit me about four week ago to where I was like, 'I'm going to push through for a couple weeks.' Now it's at the point where I'm getting a little antsy. As far as me actually thinking 'I'm ready,' that first week [of practice] was a kind of a trial run, getting my feet back underneath me, feeling out the game a little bit. The second week was like, 'All right, I'm going to act as if the week after this next week [that] I would come in and play.' Then I felt good after that week. I felt like if needed, I would be able to come in. I would be able to compete. I would be able to complete balls. That comes with how confident I am with the base that I have right now and just the little things I've been working on."
Lock returned to practice on Nov. 12 after spending nearly three months away from the field. He suffered a thumb injury on Aug. 19 and was placed on injured reserve ahead of the season opener.
Fangio said he'll need to see Lock "operate the offense," "play his position well" and "all the little things" for the rookie to earn the start against the Chargers.
The Broncos will not make the decision until later in the week and could potentially wait to choose a starter until just before the game.
Lock said it "doesn't necessarily matter at all" when he receives an official designation from the coaching staff.
"I'm prepping to be a starter," Lock said. "If that happens, then that happens. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. I'll be ready either way, to either help Brandon out this week or hopefully have Brandon help me out."
Fangio said he will make the final decision on who starts at quarterback, but he added that he will consult with both President of Football Operations/GM John Elway and members of the coaching staff.
The decision will be based partially on how Allen looks in practice, but Fangio said the team will choose a starter "mainly [by] how Drew does."
All three options remain possible for Lock this weekend: He could start, serve as the backup or remain on IR.
Fangio, though, said he didn't see "a lot of value" in having Lock serve as the team's backup before starting a game.
If Lock starts, Fangio said Brett Rypien would "probably not" serve as the team's backup, which would point to Allen filling that role.
"I'm always preparing to play," Allen said. "That's whether you're starting or you're the backup anyway. Like I said, with the preparation, nothing is going to change for me preparation-wise. I'm going to prepare like I'm going in there to start, and if I'm not … you're always one play away. You never know and you've got to be ready to go in."
The Broncos have yet to determine whether Lock would start the rest of the season if he earns the starting job ahead of Sunday's game.
Lock, though, is ready to prove he can be the long-term answer at quarterback that the Broncos have searched for since the beginning of the 2016 season.
"I want to try to build this into something special for sure," Lock said. "I want to be able to give the confidence every single week to my teammates and to the people upstairs that if we ride into this in the offseason after these however many games it takes until I get started, then we're going to have an awesome offseason coming into next season.
"Hopefully I end up being here for a long time."