The majority of the NFL world is down on Drew Lock, including a large swath of Denver Broncos fans, but veteran cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. isn’t about to discount the second-year quarterback.
With the Broncos hitting the road to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Harris — who now hangs his football hat in Tinsletown — knows Lock well after spending all of 2019 with him in Denver. Harris has seen every size and shape quarterback the NFL has to offer over his decade in the league and while he acknowledged that Lock’s turnovers have to be minimized, he also warned of taking his former teammate too lightly.
“This year has been more rough for Drew than last year,” Harris said on Wednesday during his conference call with Denver media. “He’s been up-and-down with turnovers. But he can still get hot and make those throws and tear you apart. You can never sleep on Drew. He’s just had turnover issues. He has to clean that up.”
Harris was there when Lock took over as the starter last year in Week 13, leading the Broncos to victory over the Chargers. Harris was there to see Lock get his lunch handed to him by the Chiefs in the first snow game of the QB’s career and he was there to see him bounce back and win his final two games to finish 4-1 as a rookie.
Lock has juice with his teammates and around the league. But his believers in media, and the fanbase, have dwindled of late.
One of the reasons for that? The grass-is-always-greener QB envy that guys like Justin Herbert have engendered.
Herbert is one of those rare rookies that went straight from the box to tearing it up in the NFL with very little in the way of bumps in the road. While that type of QB is becoming increasingly more common, it’s still the exception to the rule.
The rule is Ryan Tannehill. The exception is Joe Burrow.
The rule is Baker Mayfield. The exception is Kyler Murray — although he wasn’t transcendent as a rookie despite starting all 16 games in Arizona last year.
Lock’s trajectory has been the more conventional one; inconsistencies and up-and-down play punctuated here and there with flashes of brilliance. That’s how it plays out for most QBs in the league with any staying power.
That includes the likes of Aaron Rodgers who led the Packers to a 6-10 finish in his first year as a starter only to take a quantum leap forward the next year and end at 11-5. Look at Drew Brees, also a former second-round pick like Lock, who also went 8-8 in his first 16 games as a starter back in 2001.
Brees went 2-9 the following year as a starter but in what was his fourth year, the Chargers leapt forward finishing 12-4. I could keep going but you get the point. Even stars out-of-the-box like Herbert, who recently broke the rookie passing touchdown record, rarely have success in the standings.
It’s also worth noting that head-to-head, it’s Lock 1, Herbert 0 thus far.
Lock is 8-8 as a starter through his first 16 games, posting a 57.7 completion percentage and passing for 3,350 yards and 21 touchdowns while throwing 13 interceptions. Brees didn’t reach numbers like that until his fourth year in the league, and third as a starter.
Harris’ remarks about Lock crystallize the reality that Lock has the tools and intangibles to make it in this league but he’s still very much knee-deep in ‘the process.’ Broncos fans have run out of patience, even though it’s not all Lock’s fault, because of the last five years of missing the playoffs.
Lock becomes the whipping boy and target for justifiably frustrated fans that are simply tired and worn out from losing. But if you hang in there, just a little bit longer, all that pain, sorrow, and sacrifice could pay off in a big, bad way as Lock continues to develop and gains valuable starting experience in the NFL.
Then again, Lock could end up flaming out like countless other premium-round QBs and be chewed up and spit out by the NFL. The Broncos don’t believe such a fate awaits Lock and it would seem that Harris, now a rival, doesn’t either. Take heart in that.