SEATTLE — The final audition could be on the horizon.
When the Broncos match up with the Seahawks on Saturday night at Lumen Field, it may be the final chance for quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater to state their case for the starting job.
Head Coach Vic Fangio said this week that the Broncos "were pretty damn close" to having enough information to make a decision. Could Saturday's performances in Seattle be enough to tip the scales in the favor of one of the quarterbacks?
That's just one of the questions facing the Broncos as they approach their second preseason game. As the regular season draws closer, every rep becomes more valuable; against the Vikings, Lock and Bridgewater won't be the only ones trying to make the most of them.
Before Denver kicks off at 8 p.m. MT on Saturday night, here's a look at a few questions that will be answered.
WILL BRIDGEWATER MAKE THE MOST OF HIS TIME WITH THE STARTERS?
A week ago, Bridgewater entered the game against the Vikings facing a tough challenge. Lock's performance early set a high bar, as the third-year quarterback threw for a pair of touchdowns and more than 150 yards. Bridgewater responded well, as he completed 7-of-8 passes for 74 yards and led a pair of scoring drives.
Against Seattle, Bridgewater will be the first man up. He'll get the benefit of working with players like Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant — and potentially Courtland Sutton, as well — as he tries to start fast. The challenge will be more difficult, though. Seattle's defense — even if it plays its starters for limited snaps — will certainly pose more of a challenge than the Vikings' unit did a week ago.
In what could be each quarterback's final chance to make a statement, it will be important for Bridgewater to string together drives, score points and show that he can be the Broncos' top option at the position. It seems unlikely that Denver would make its decision based solely off one game, but with little separation between the two quarterbacks, every single data point will matter.
CAN LOCK SHOW NEEDED CONSISTENCY?
There's never been any doubt about Lock's ability. He's shown his top-end talent and game-changing style of play in several games during his career, as he's posted breakout performances against the Texans, Chargers and Panthers since entering the league. Lock's struggles have stemmed more from his ability to be consistent, and the Broncos have made it clear they value that characteristic in their eventual starter.
"Who's the most consistent?" said General Manager George Paton in July when asked what he would look for in the competition. "Who's the most steady? Who's the most calm?"
Lock, to his credit, has been relatively consistent during the course of training camp. His play hasn't fluctuated from day to day, and he's been a steady, more careful player in 2021. Lock said this week that the competition has made him a better player, and that appears to be the case, as he's largely avoided the turnovers that plagued his 2020 season.
Now, Lock must show that consistency can translate from week to week in games. Against the Vikings, Lock was near perfect. But that won't matter much if he turns the ball over against the Seahawk's second- or third-team defense and can't build on his performance. As he approaches his work with the second-team offense, it will be critical for Lock to play with the same even-keeled demeanor he's shown throughout the preseason.
HOW DOES THE STARTING DEFENSE LOOK IN ITS FIRST GAME ACTION?
The Broncos' starting defense sat out en masse against the Vikings, as Fangio opted to be cautious with his talented unit. Justin Simmons and Co. should see their first action this weekend, as Fangio said Thursday that he expects the starters to play 12-15 plays in Seattle. They could get a good test, as Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson could see his own first snaps of the preseason.
It remains to be seen whether the team's elite pass-rushers will be out there with the starting group, as Fangio was unsure whether Von Miller and Bradley Chubb would suit up for their first preseason action.
Regardless of whether the two pass-rushers join the rest of the group, we should be able to make our first evaluation of the Broncos' defense. The secondary has been borderline dominant at times during training camp, but Seattle has the weapons to test the unit. DK Metcalf is a burgeoning star, and Tyler Lockett is another valuable piece of the Seahawks' wide receiver unit. If Wilson is in the game to direct the offense, Simmons and the rest of the secondary — Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan and Pat Surtain II — could get the tune-up they need ahead of the regular-season opener.
Denver has talent at every level of its defense. Can they show it off in Seattle?