ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In some ways folks look at Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler as Brock OMG — as in if Osweiler were ever to start a game, that would mean Peyton Manning did not. That all kinds of potential disasters would follow.
Other than the 2011 season he missed because of neck surgeries, few players, if any — quarterbacks or otherwise — have played more snaps than Manning since he entered the league in 1998. Still, people in the Rocky Mountain region have the worry beads out at times these days. Especially when they count Manning's birthdays and think about his continued rehab from those neck procedures that even Manning has conceded "change the way I do some things.'' And especially after Manning takes as big a hit as he took in the preseason loss in Seattle.
But when the Broncos make their final cuts to get down to 53 players later this week, Osweiler will be the team’s No. 2 quarterback, just like he was last season when he was a rookie, and just like the Broncos had him inked in on the depth chart from the moment the offseason started.
Saturday night against St. Louis, Osweiler offered a glimpse of what he can do with a little time to do something. And that may really be the best thing that came out of the game.
“We like where Brock is right now,’’ Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway said after a recent practice. “He’s shown us improvement, work ethic and the ability to learn and handle the position and he appreciates the position he’s in, the opportunity he has.''
For the first time in this preseason, Osweiler also got some starters around him. He entered the game at the start of the second half and enjoyed two possessions with the first-team blockers and receivers.
The Broncos went three-and-out on the first drive, with Osweiler playing a little too fast and things looking a little choppy. But the next time the Broncos got the ball Osweiler took the team on an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive, completing 5 of 6 passes for 58 yards along the way.
The Rams' coaches noticed Osweiler's arm strength, how the 6-foot-8 quarterback can see over the rush, even as the defenders close in, and several said so following the game. Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer has said he likes what he sees from Osweiler, especially the ability “to spin it.’’
“It felt good,’’ Osweiler said. “To be out there with all of those guys, just a great opportunity to see where I am, what I have to work on.’’
Osweiler, who in the first two preseason games was sacked seven times and spent much of the rest of the time trying to avoid trouble, showed the full slate of offerings against the Rams — a powerful arm (as well as the poor decisions that sometimes come with it), good mobility, a firm grasp of what was a limited game plan and, perhaps most important, potential.
Asked if the opportunity to work with the starters was good for Osweiler, Broncos coach John Fox said, “Yeah, for his confidence. He’s been thrown out there with some other guys so far in the first two games. And I thought he operated pretty good. A couple of poor decisions, like any other young player. But I thought he did some good things as well.”
Osweiler finished with eight possessions that resulted in two touchdowns, a field goal, a fumbled snap, an interception and three punts. Still, it’s easy to see when a team responds, or doesn’t respond, to a quarterback.
The Broncos’ decision-makers like what they see from Osweiler day-to-day in the huddle and how those around him react to him. He’s had more freedom to make calls at the line of scrimmage in both practice and games.
Perhaps most importantly, he is an early riser.
Many inside the Broncos' Dove Valley complex say that when Manning, notorious for getting up early and getting right down to it, arrives each day, Osweiler is already there, ready to go.
Which is how the Broncos want him to be, hope he can be. Ready to go.