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Preseason finale likely Brock Osweiler's last extended playing time

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Brock Osweiler has gotten more time this preseason than his previous three, but that time will come to a close once the regular season starts. Joe Mahoney/AP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos like what they’ve seen thus far from quarterback Brock Osweiler in their offseason workouts, training camp and their first three preseason games.

But with Osweiler set to have his last planned significant work in the team’s offense when he starts the Broncos’ preseason finale Thursday night, the Broncos decision-makers would still like to see just a little bit more.

“(We) would just like to see him solidify what he’s done in the preseason," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "...He’s got a bunch of young guys who are playing with him and from a quarterback standpoint, your play should reflect through those young guys, you should raise their level of play. That’s what I want to see him do."

Osweiler is slated to play at least a half against the Arizona Cardinals. When rookie Trevor Siemian closes things out behind center, that will mark the end of the quarterbacks' preseason work.

And that means, other than a few snaps here, an occasional day off there for Peyton Manning, the bulk of Osweiler’s work -- outside of his usual scout team work -- will be finished in the Broncos’ offense. He will be a free agent at season’s end and the Broncos still, at some point, will have to make a decision about his future with the team and whether or not to extend his contract.

That means the Broncos will also have to use what they’ve seen in Osweiler in the offseason as well as in the preseason games as factors in their decision. Osweiler has been Manning’s backup since being drafted in the second round in 2012, weeks after Manning signed with the team as a free agent.

“I think (for) the most part anytime you're able to step foot on the football field and play in a game, you need to enjoy the moment because you don't know the next time it's going to come," Osweiler said. “I treat every week like that. I'm living the dream playing quarterback in the National Football League. Obviously I'm going to enjoy the moment, but at the same time, we have a job to do, and that's to beat the Arizona Cardinals. That's what the true focus is on.”

Things have been different for Osweiler this offseason, with Kubiak having instituted a different kind of schedule for Manning. Kubiak gave Manning and select veterans days off during the offseason program as well as in training camp. Manning also played in just two preseason games for a total of 63 snaps, and will sit out Thursday.

In hopes of preserving Manning for a strong stretch drive into the postseason, Kubiak has said he will consider giving Manning some regular-season practices off, too. That will give Osweiler some opportunity to show his progress with the starters in practice, but if all goes as planned, Osweiler’s game-day appearances would be limited to games deemed out of hand.

Kubiak has said he believes it’s important in Osweiler’s development to “run the team as his team" when Manning is out. Thursday’s game will be just another part of that.

“I think being a leader is making those 10 guys around you perform better, perform at a level maybe they haven't before," Osweiler said after practice Tuesday. “For Coach [Kubiak] to say that, I couldn't agree more. I'm going to go out there Thursday night, give everything I have and just try to play consistent, move the chains and get points ... raise the play of those other 10 guys around you is all about leadership."