ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos sent their players and coaches into the offseason two weeks ago with a summer camp field day of sorts. It included a dunk tank and a basketball hoop on an afternoon geared more toward downtime than third down.
For at least two of the players over the coming weeks, there’s little time to relax. Quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater were in a battle for the team’s starting job when they left, and they will be in one again when they return in late July.
Coach Vic Fangio said almost all of meaningful grades haven’t been handed out yet.
“Obviously, coaches and everybody else likes to evaluate every day, but to me, the big evaluation will come more in camp,” Fangio said. “… So to me, they — if you’re going to put a percentage on it, the evaluation and comparing the two, is 2-3% these last few weeks. The 97-98% of it has yet to come.”
It all means if Lock and Bridgewater wanted to do the whole 1-2-3 Cancun thing, they better have a plan to mix plenty of football in there as well.
Each faces a slightly different challenge over the next few weeks. For Lock, he has spent much of the offseason trying to show the coaches, as well as himself, he now understands what offseasons look like for the league’s best quarterbacks.
To that end, he has studied with Peyton Manning. He’s dug in on a throw-by-throw review of his play last season when he tied for the league lead in interceptions and finished last among starters in completion percentage. He’s tweaked his footwork. He said as minicamp ended, he would largely stick to his spring plan through the summer.
“I’ll throw quite a bit,” Lock said. “I’ll maybe take a little bit of time, relax a couple days and then get right back to it. But my plan is to stay the same kind — 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.”
For Bridgewater, as he enters his eighth NFL season, it’s more about finding some additional comfort level with the Broncos’ playbook, which he has only had since Denver acquired him in a trade the day before the NFL draft began. Bridgewater does have some familiarity with Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was a Minnesota Vikings assistant when Bridgewater was there.
When Shurmur was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator for nine games during the 2016 season, however, Bridgewater was out with a knee injury. Then Bridgewater played in just one game in 2017, throwing two passes, with Shurmur calling plays.
Lock has been forceful about wanting to win the job in his public comments, while Bridgewater has taken a more reserved public approach so far. Bridgewater said he hopes to work with some of the Broncos’ receivers, as well as with Lock, most likely in Florida, before camp begins.
“I’ll come up with a plan,” Bridgewater said when asked how he would spend the time before training camp. “I usually go back to South Florida and fly a couple of guys where I am, and we’ll work that way. … I’m looking forward to these five weeks of working and getting the guys together and having some fun.”
Bridgewater is the more experienced quarterback by seasons overall, but he and Lock have started a similar number of games (21 for Bridgewater, 18 for Lock) and thrown roughly the same number of passes (713 attempts for Bridgewater, 599 for Lock) thanks to Bridgewater’s lost season in 2016.
But Bridgewater has had more time in the league, including two years with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans.
In the end, both Lock and Bridgewater know what awaits them when they return for training camp. Fangio has already vowed neither will get much down time in practice or any cozy one-series outings in the preseason. They’re both going to play, and throw, a lot this summer as the Broncos search for their starter.
“[They need] to get themselves in the best physical shape they can get themselves in,” Fangio said. “Obviously they need to be throwing. They don’t want to take a month off from throwing. They have to build their arm strength to where when they come into camp, it’s not like the first day of throwing in a month. It’s twofold. Study the playbook, they got the iPad, they’ll be able to watch any and everything we want to give them. So it’s some study, a lot of work of getting into tremendous shape, and then make sure your arm is ready to go.”