The return of Aaron Rodgers to Green Bay has created an intense training camp battle for the Denver Broncos’ opening-week starting quarterback job.
A flawless performance by Teddy Bridgewater in Saturday’s 30-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks will likely make a difficult decision for coach Vic Fangio even tougher. Fangio indicated after the win that he could make the decision early this week ahead of Denver’s final preseason game on Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Bridgewater went 9-of-11 for 105 yards and a touchdown in orchestrating a 14-0 lead after Denver’s first two offensive series. Drew Lock then completed 9-of-14 passes for 80 yards but finished without a touchdown. Bridgewater produced a near-perfect QB rating of 136.7, while Lock finished the night with a rating of 76.5.
The quarterback competition is arguably the tightest battle of any across the league during the 2021 NFL preseason. Lock, the incumbent starter, finished with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season in 13 starts. In April, the Broncos acquired Bridgewater from the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick. Bridgewater finished with a career-high 3,733 passing yards last season with the Panthers, but he only had 15 touchdowns in 15 starts.
“These guys, Drew and Teddy, have done well,” Fangio said in Saturday’s postgame press conference. “They’ve made it a hard decision.”
A dead heat
The race is a virtual dead heat at theScore, where both Lock and Bridgewater are +120 to take the Broncos’ first snap in Week 1 vs. the New York Giants. TheScore lists “Any Other QB,” at +300, a longshot at this point after Rodgers opted to return to Green Bay. The Broncos had emerged as a favorite in the offseason to land Rodgers if the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player forced a trade. Brett Rypien, the Broncos’ third-string quarterback, finished the game for Denver after replacing Lock in the fourth quarter.
Bridgewater threw his lone touchdown in Saturday’s win when he avoided a corner blitz on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2 and delivered a dart to wide receiver K.J. Hamler in the right corner of the end zone. Bridgewater had extended the drive with a 35-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy on 4th-and-5 from the Seahawks’ 40.
On the subsequent drive, Bridgewater connected with tight end Eric Saubert on a 21-yard completion to the Seahawks’ 1. Over two games this preseason, Bridgewater is 16 for 19 for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The 2014 first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings has yet to throw an interception during the preseason.
“Some of his good plays were hard quarterback plays, where he had to manipulate the pocket, step up, step laterally and wait for something to come open late,” Fangio said. “I thought he did really well.”
Teddy Bridgewater was cooking yesterday 🔥🔥🔥
🔶 86.3 grade
🔶 82.6 passing grade
🔶 105 yards and 1 touchdown pic.twitter.com/fwNn0fybkj
— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) August 22, 2021
Prior to the game, FanDuel made Lock a -200 favorite over Bridgewater (+160) to win the starting quarterback job. While the Seahawks sacked Lock twice on Saturday, Fangio blamed the sacks on poor offensive line play rather than criticizing Lock for holding onto the ball for too long.
Fangio indicated after the game that he wants to evaluate the quarterbacks on film before making his decision.
“We had some protection breakdowns when [Lock] got in there,” Fangio said. “I want to see all his plays with a remote in my hand and take a good look at it rather than what I saw on the field at the time.”
The sacks occurred on consecutive plays on Lock’s first series, including one by Seahawks lineman Jarrod Hewitt on Lock’s first pass attempt. Lock didn’t appear fazed, meanwhile, by Bridgewater’s stellar performance.
“There’s always the human nature of comparison, but you have to just take it play by play,” Lock said after the game. “The first play was upsetting, and then that next drive we had to get things going. Teddy did a good job — it was just about me going out there and making the best out of each play that I got.”
Lock went 5-for-7 for 151 yards and two touchdowns on Aug. 14 in the Broncos’ 33-6 win over the Vikings. He connected with Hamler on an 80-yard touchdown off a play action pass, when Hamler beat defensive back Cam Dantzler on a deep crossing route down the middle.
KJ Hamler’s 80 yard TD catch from Drew Lock highlights a few aspects worth mentioning:
🟢Cam Dantzler in coverage (#27) had speed concerns coming out of college (4.65 40)
🟢Gives Hamler a free release
🟢That speed mismatch becomes very evident pic.twitter.com/6QmuVsH1Xv
— 🟢📽🏈 𝔽𝕀𝕃𝕄 ℝ𝕆𝕆𝕄 🏈🖥 (@SapientFilm) August 18, 2021
Impact on Broncos’ futures
At PointsBet, Lock has odds of 100/1 to lead the NFL in passing yards, while the odds on Bridgewater are more remote at 200/1. Both quarterbacks have odds of 250/1 at theScore to finish the regular season with the most passing yards in the league.
The Broncos also have odds of 20/1 at DraftKings to finish as the league’s lowest-scoring team during the regular season. Three other teams — the Patriots, Dolphins, and Panthers — are also listed at 20/1. The Texans (+400) are favored to capture the dubious honor, followed by the Jets (+600), Lions (+800), Jaguars (+1200), Bears (+1200), and Eagles (+1400).
At BetMGM, the Broncos have odds of -115 to finish with more than 8.5 wins and odds of +140 to finish over 9.5 victories. Under a new scheduling format, every team will play 17 games, with one bye. The addition of one game per team marks the first change to the NFL’s regular-season schedule since 1978.
The Broncos have odds of +140 to make the playoffs at BetMGM, along with odds of -165 to miss the postseason.