Drewcember? Lock needs to develop, earn title of Broncos' QB of future

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Lock was excited to make first start for Broncos (0:32)

Broncos rookie QB Drew Lock said he found out he was starting vs. the Chargers on Friday, and he was "really excited" to play. (0:32)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' faithful and many within the Broncos' complex have gotten their wish.

Drew Lock is the Broncos' starting quarterback at least for the near future. As Broncos coach Vic Fangio said just minutes after Sunday's 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers: "There was no long-term plan other than if he did fine, he would stay in there. I'm telling you now he's starting next week."

But no matter how quickly some want to proclaim Lock as the team's first quarterback savior since Peyton Manning retired, the jury is still decidedly out.

Because it has to be. The Broncos have seen -- to quote Manning's most hated phrase -- "arm talent" before. Deep throws in training camp or one-game snapshots have been used to bang the drum for more than one quarterback discovery.

Sunday was good for Lock, awesome even. It was good for his family. It was the first time since John Elway and Gary Kubiak were rookies in 1983 that a Broncos rookie quarterback won his first start.

But Sunday doesn't change the fact the Broncos and this football-obsessed region have chewed up and spit out more than their share of quarterbacks not named Elway or Manning.

Elway was once asked what was more difficult as a young player -- being the quarterback or handling what comes with the job. He said handling the job was "a lot more difficult, especially when you're a young guy. To deal with scrutiny, the locker room, expectations and maybe things don't go your way for the first time at something you think you've done your whole life at that point."

The public outcry for Lock to play after 10 full on-field practices, not including walkthroughs, was borderline illogical. As one NFC general manager put it this past week "that's like saying a rookie quarterback is ready to play two weeks into training camp. It can happen for a running back maybe, but a quarterback? Never seen a quarterback ready to go after a handful of practices. There will be situations where that shows, you have to be willing to accept that."

Saying Lock has what it takes, after one win, is too easy. "Swag" was a popular word in the Broncos' locker room Sunday evening. Several of Lock's teammates have said they have seen the guy put in the work. Rookie offensive lineman Dalton Risner, taken one pick ahead of Lock in the second round of last April's draft, talked about how Lock wrote plays on the mirror of the bathroom when the two roomed together during training camp. Risner said Lock would record and then recite the playcalls, listening to them over and over again.

That's the type of work Lock needs to continue to do instead of getting caught up in talk of "Drewcember."

Lock finished Sunday 18-of-28 passing for 134 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He looked composed for much of the day, showed some comfort level running the pieces of the playbook he was familiar with and, for the most part, avoided taking too big a bite with throws he'd like to have back later. All in all, an efficient debut.

Fangio was asked Monday if Lock had the "athletic arrogance" the coach has said is an important part of a QB's makeup. "I said it would take games, games plural. I think he did fine [Sunday]. I really do. After watching the tape and seeing it all, where you can rewind it, he missed some throws, from an accuracy standpoint, some reads, but I think overall it was a good first game for him and I think anything more than that would be stretching it."

Lock struggled during the second half and already some folks are asking why the Broncos were so conservative. Why not just let him wing it, developmental strategy be damned? Lock's 11 yards passing in the second half were not all on the playcalls, just as Joe Flacco's incompletions or Brandon Allen's struggles in Buffalo were not all on the playcalls.

Remove a 33-yard completion for Lock just before halftime that came with one second left while the Chargers' safeties were playing somewhere near the Wyoming border, and Lock was 17-of-27 for 101 yards in his debut.

Lock won't prove he's the long-term guy this December. We'll know more in April when the Broncos have a far sturdier depth chart at the position to challenge him. But he can show how he can perform in adverse situations.

The Broncos have handed out the quarterback of the future job plenty of times in the last three years. It's time for the quarterback of the present to put in the work and prove he's worthy of that designation.