NFL Nation: Brock Osweiler

INDIANAPOLIS -- Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway met with the media Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. Here's what we learned about the Denver Broncos:

1. No timetable on Manning: Despite Peyton Manning's salary of $19 million for the upcoming season being guaranteed on March 9, Elway said there is no firm deadline on the quarterback's decision to play, or not, in 2015. Asked repeatedly if March 9 actually served as the deadline for a decision, Elway said: "He's got all the time he wants." Overall on the prospect of Manning's return, Elway said Manning had a physical in New Orleans recently -- he is scheduled for another on his neck next week -- and offered: "Let me say this, we're hopeful that Peyton comes back and we want him back. As I said after the season we wanted him back, and we still want him back. He has not given me a definitive answer, exactly what he wants to do, we're hopeful he's going to come back. I believe he'll be back and I believe he'll be our quarterback."

2. Competition for free agents: The Broncos are meeting with agents for several of their own free agents this week in Indianapolis. Elway said the Broncos would still like to re-sign several of them, players like safety Rahim Moore, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, tight end Virgil Green and tackle Orlando Franklin, but that neither side will likely move to deals before everybody knows what the market is for each. Teams can begin negotiating with prospective free agents March 7, but no deal can be completed and signed until free agency officially opens March 10. Elway said he believed Franklin, especially, would draw offers from others. "But I think Orlando is going to get a lot of interest. He finished strong, there's going to be a lot of interest in a lot of our guys," Elway said.

3. Julius Thomas headed to open market: Tight end Julius Thomas is an unrestricted free agent whom the Broncos expect to sign elsewhere. Elway said Thursday the Broncos tried to get a deal last season with Thomas and were told at that point the two-time Pro Bowl selection was headed into the market. "We have to wait and see, we tried to do something with Julius last year and couldn't get it done," Elway said. "I think he wants to test the market." Asked about his relationship with Thomas, Elway added, "I didn't have contact with Julius, I've never had long conversation with him other than saying, 'Hello, how are you doing?' I don't have an issue with Julius."

4. Don't throw: Chalk it up to his own experiences as a quarterback -- the draft's No. 1 pick in 1983 -- but Elway recounted his time as a prospect Thursday, saying he skipped what was then a regional combine in Seattle and he would not throw at the combine if he were a quarterback coming into the draft now. "I didn't want them to see my bad knee," Elway said. "I was up in Seattle ... going to go to a Golden Helmet award deal in Seattle and they were checking guys into the [regional] combine at the same time. I was checking in to go to this banquet, and they grabbed me and checked me in to the combine. I'm like, 'All right,' and then I called my dad. I said, 'Dad, there's a combine.' He said, 'Go to the banquet tonight, get up early next morning and get a cab to the airport.' That's what I did." On throwing now, Elway said, "If I was a quarterback I wouldn't throw here. Why? ... He's going to have a pro day."

5. Hang in there: With Manning poised to announce his intention to return for the 2015 season, it means backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Broncos' second-round pick in the 2012 draft, could reach the end of his original rookie deal at the end of the 2015 season without starting a regular-season game for the Broncos if Manning stays healthy. Elway said Thursday it was something he addressed with Osweiler at the end of the season. "I talked to Brock when he checked out," Elway said. "I told him and I mean the fact we are thrilled with his progress, he's worked his tail off. I know it's been a little frustrating for him because he hasn't been able to play ... but I told him keep your nose to the grindstone, keep working and you're going to get your opportunity some day."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A decision over whether Peyton Manning will, or won't, play quarterback in the 2015 would affect most people who punch the clock day-to-day in the Broncos' suburban Denver complex.

But probably nobody would be more affected than the guy whose locker is next to Manning's -- backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Since Manning was signed before the 2012 season, Osweiler has been his backup.

A second-round pick in the draft that same year, Osweiler spends more time with Manning than virtually anyone else in the building and Osweiler doesn't know what Manning has planned.

"I have no idea," Osweiler said. "None. I fully expect when Peyton is ready to address it he will. I've been fortunate to be in my situation and will continue to work as hard as I can."

Osweiler has learned at Manning's side, his coaches say he's progressed in an offense that was not built for him, but for a future Hall of Famer who may have the best football recall of any player who has ever lined up behind center.

He's even run the starting offense in practice from time to time. He just hasn't played very much in the last three seasons.

His grand total is 30 pass attempts -- just 10 of those this season -- to go with one touchdown, a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Virgil Green in this year's regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders. Overall he has, at times, shown a top-shelf arm to go with quality mobility, but he has lacked a pocket awareness at times when he has played, often holding the ball a little too long.

But the Broncos feel some of that may be his desire to try to make something happen in the small sample size worth of snaps he has gotten to this point, that it's hard to play with patience when you have waited so long to play. Still, Osweiler said after he takes some down time, he won't adjust his offseason preparation according to whatever Manning decides to do.

"Ever since I've been here I've always taken the approach if you're prepared you don't have to get prepared. I've always prepared every single week, training camp, every single spring, like I was going to be the guy playing. I just went about my business and if my number got called I was ready."

Tuesday Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway addressed his confidence in the Broncos' current depth chart at quarterback with Osweiler and Zac Dysert, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2013.

"We're excited about both of those guys, Zac and Brock," Elway said. "They worked their tail off and have done a heck of a job, so they've made progress, especially Brock has made that progress that you would hope he would make. What's difficult is he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time. When that time comes, you know we'll see where he is and the training that he's gotten up to this point is second to none. (Offensive coordinator) Adam (Gase) and (quarterbacks coach) Greg Knapp have done a great job training Bock and Zac, so we'll see where that is when we get there."

Elway said he told Manning Monday, when the two met in Elway's office, to take "five-six weeks" to make his decision about next season. Elway also added he believed Manning would be back and that he and the Broncos wanted Manning back.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end it was a play that had little risk and plenty of reward for two players the Denver Broncos thought might need a little pick-me-up for their efforts.

Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterback Peyton Manning offered a light-hearted glimpse behind the 1-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler to Virgil Green with 1 minute, 56 seconds remaining in the Broncos’ 47-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBroncos
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesBrock Osweiler got his first career touchdown pass in three seasons with the Broncos and Virgil Green his first touchdown reception in four seasons with the Broncos.
The play was Osweiler’s first career touchdown pass in three seasons with the Broncos and Green’s first touchdown reception in four seasons with the Broncos.

With a substantial lead the Broncos had run the ball on first-and-goal from the Raiders’ 6-yard line as Jeremy Stewart went for 5 yards. Stewart was then stuffed for no gain on second down.

With the game in hand and backup players, including Osweiler, all over the formation, Gase’s inclination was to run the ball again. Until Manning, who both works with Osweiler every day and had vowed earlier this season to get Green a touchdown catch because of Green’s gritty work in the offense, got involved.

“I know Brock has been waiting forever," Gase said. “Every time he would go in he’s like ‘we’re throwing it, right?’ I’m like ‘no.’ You try to give him a little bit of hope. It was good that coach [John] Fox gave us the green light. The starting quarterback was killing me that we weren’t going to throw it there on the third-and-one. He talked Fox into it. He knew what Virgil could do. It was a good call by Peyton."

“We’ve been trying like crazy for Virgil all season," Manning said. “We had a couple things to him against Kansas City that didn’t quite work out. It was good to see Virgil got his and Brock at the same time."

Asked about Gase’s assessment that Manning was lobbying hard for the pass play, Manning said with a smile: “I called it, I gave it to him, I was telling him what he should call. It worked out well."

W2W4: Denver Broncos

August, 28, 2014
The Denver Broncos (2-1) meet the Dallas Cowboys (0-3) Thursday night (8 ET) in AT&T Stadium in the preseason finale for both teams.

1. Somebody, anybody: There is a bit of self-preservation at work, but if it's not already too late, somebody on the Broncos' roster has to show the coaching staff he can catch a punt with some reliability and perhaps provide some impact in the return game along the way. Otherwise, the chances of the Broncos combing the list of transactions in the coming days to bring in a returner go up significantly. And if they bring somebody in, that means a Broncos player will have the unkindest cut of all -- one where you think you made the 53-man roster only to be released a day later. But since Jordan Norwood's season-ending knee injury, nobody has shown they can consistently make the plays fielding punts.

2. Tough decisions: It will bear watching which veterans, who don't project to be in the team's starting lineup, get the DNPs (did not play) in this one. Often those are players the team is considering releasing and do not want to suffer an injury that would require a settlement or a stint on injured reserve. The Broncos still have some roster spots in play, especially on the defensive line where things will be the tightest. If the Broncos keep just eight in the defensive front, and that is still the most likely scenario, Kevin Vickerson and Mitch Unrein could be playing for the last spot in the position group. It is a testament to the difference in depth on this roster and last year's given that both players were regulars in the rotations last season.

3. His night: The Broncos will not play any of their regulars in this one, so backup quarterback Brock Osweiler will get perhaps his most extensive work of the preseason. Granted, he hasn't played behind the starting offensive line or with the team's starting receivers, but he's completed just 55.6 percent of his passes in three preseason games -- 36 plays against the Seattle Seahawks, 24 plays each against the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans. He has flashed a power arm and shown progress in how he runs a challenging offense. But he still needs to be more settled in the pocket, feel pressure sooner and slide to make throws. He's still too quick to run if things break down even a little and learn a lesson Peyton Manning has always said was one of the most important as a young quarterback, "that a punt is not necessarily a bad play," so he doesn't force a ball into coverage when he doesn't have to.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There's a learning curve and then there is the twisting, turning, work-fast riddle that is the Denver Broncos' offensive playbook.

And that is what receiver Cody Latimer must navigate to go from draft pick with piles of potential to draft pick with a productive place in a fast-paced touchdown factory.

"Our code words have code words, our signals have signals," said Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. "To be able to put that together, to know what's the real deal. Is it an audible? Is it a dummy call? It takes a while to get all that running smoothly. ... And that's the major hurdle for any young guy in our offense, just to know all there is to know as fast as we need you to know it.''

[+] EnlargeDenver's Cody Latimer
John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesCody Latimer hauls in a 33-yard touchdown catch against the 49ers.
And then Tolbert added with a smile: "but I'd venture to say he's picking it up fairly well ... for a rookie."

A rookie that is looking more and more like he can be, despite the Broncos' obvious firepower and depth on offense, a contributor when the Broncos close in on the end zone. Sunday, in the Broncos' 34-0 preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers, Latimer caught his first scoring pass in a game for the Broncos.

He showed his top-tier speed up the right sideline and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler tossed a 33-yard scoring pass that he dove to catch.

"I just saw a one-on-one matchup there," Osweiler said following the game. " ... Cody just did a tremendous job by running by the corner and making a great catch in the end zone."

The starting jobs in the Broncos' three-wide receiver look are largely spoken for with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders set to get the bulk of the plays. But when the May draft rolled around, the Broncos were still on the hunt for a little more size at the position, and when the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer was still on the board when their second-round pick rolled around they grabbed him.

Latimer had fractured his foot in a pre-draft workout so the Broncos knew he would initially be limited in their offseason work. But just as Latimer showed the initiative to seek out special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers to see if he could return kickoffs, Latimer has also been a willing post-practice student with quarterback Peyton Manning, sweating the details along the way.

"You just want to learn as much as possible," Latimer said. "You have to know where you need to be all the time. You have to know the plays, the variations, just all of things that need to be done."

Latimer also fits another job description the team was looking to fill when they sifted through the rubble that was Super Bowl XLVIII. The defenses that did give the Broncos' record-setting offense at least some trouble last season, including the Seattle Seahawks' D in the title game, often did so by re-routing the Broncos receivers off the line of scrimmage, preventing them from getting a free release and disrupting the timing of an offense that lives on timing.

So when the Broncos looked at Latimer, in almost everything he did at Indiana, they saw a pass-catcher who was also one of the most physically aggressive receivers on the board.

"Absolutely, that was one thing that stood out, his aggressive play in general, not necessarily just to the ball," Tolbert said. "In the run game, he was a rusher on the punt team, on the kickoff team he would run down there and make tackles. Just a tough guy all the way around, rare for a receiver of his caliber to play special teams in the non-traditional roles of a wide receiver."

And when the ball was in the air, Tolbert said, "he was a guy who would get the ball and go win the ball."

All of that, when the Broncos crank things up for real, figures to put Latimer in some kind of rotation when the Broncos move into the red zone. That is if he can master the right-place, right-time technicalities of the team's offense.

"You want to be a guy Peyton Manning can trust," Latimer said. "He knows where (Thomas), Wes and Emmanuel are going to be. I just want to keep working so he always feels like he knows where I'll be and that I'll fight for that ball if it comes my way."

Observation Deck: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2014

Sure, it’s preseason, and sure it’s like football base jumping to make too many lasting judgments on what happens in August games, but the Denver Broncos have gone toe-to-toe in back-to-back weeks with NFC powerhouses and fared like a Super Bowl hopeful should.

With starters against starters, the 2s against the 2s and the 3s against the 3s, the Broncos have defeated the Seattle Seahawks and then simply overpowered the San Francisco 49ers 34-0 on Sunday in Levi’s Stadium. The Broncos' top two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, were a combined 22-for-27 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers.

Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos’ second preseason game:

  • More than the obvious efficiency Manning has shown thus far is the willingness of offensive coordinator Adam Gase to work on a few things without revealing some of the new wrinkles in the playbook. In the Broncos' two preseason games, Gase has run the starters through some power looks to go with their bread-and-butter, three-wide receiver packages. Sunday, Gase flashed some two tight-end looks, including one with Julius Thomas and running back Ronnie Hillman bracketing Manning in the backfield. The Broncos also emptied out the backfield at times and later showed a four-wide receiver set. Late in the third quarter, Gase even put No. 3 quarterback Zac Dysert in a pistol set. They have put a lot out there for defensive coordinators to study without really showing the details of what’s to come.
  • The Broncos starting offensive line has performed well against two of the league’s most physical defenses; both the Seahawks and the 49ers finished in the league’s top five last season. Manning has not been sacked in four possessions and has thrown just five incompletions. Orlando Franklin continues to settle in at left guard, and the Broncos have kept Manning clean in the pocket and carved out some room in the running game.
  • As Hillman has continued to reconstruct his role in the offense after losing the starting job and dropping far enough down the depth chart to be a gameday inactive four times in the regular season and all three playoff games, one of the big items on his to-do list was to be more decisive with the ball in his hands. Sunday, Hillman showed that one-cut quickness on a selection of inside runs. On a 6-yard reception in second quarter, Hillman caught the ball between the hashmarks and turned immediately up the field. Hillman hasn’t yet broken off the big run the Broncos keep hoping to see, but if he continues to maintain that north-south work, he’ll keep getting some carries.
  • The Broncos might have to take a look at adding a linebacker in the coming days. On Tuesday, Danny Trevathan suffered a fracture on the top of his tibia that will keep him out six to eight weeks. On Sunday, rookie Lamin Barrow suffered a lower right leg injury. With Trevathan’s injury, Barrow was already working in one of the linebacker spots in the starting nickel at times and has been Nate Irving’s backup at middle linebacker. Barrow will be evaluated more, including an MRI, on Monday.
  • Odds and ends: The play of the day might have been rookie running back Juwan Thompson catching a ball off of his shoe-tops and then barreling over a 49ers safety to take the ball to the 49ers 1-yard line. … Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler. … Cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (thigh) were held out.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 23

August, 15, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:

  • The Broncos "broke" camp after their walk-through late Friday afternoon, though things will look largely the same for players Tuesday when they return to the practice field. Because of construction at their complex, including that of a new indoor practice facility, fans have not been able to attend training camp practices that have routinely been open to the public in previous years. As a result Friday's two practices had much the same setting as Tuesday's will. That's when the Broncos begin three days of work against the Houston Texans. As of Friday, however, the Broncos' veterans no longer have to stay at the nearby hotel and can commute from home the rest of the way. "Camp's over, but we're still in camp mode because we're not in the regular season yet," safety T.J. Ward said. "We get to get out of the hotel and it's not as long of a day, but we're still preparing in that mindset. I'm just glad I get to go home and sleep in my own bed."
  • Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was held out of Friday's morning practice with a thigh injury that has limited him over the last two weeks. Sanders had practiced Tuesday and Thursday but was also held out of Monday's practice. He did participate in the evening walk-through, which forced the Broncos to adjust things with the starting offense earlier in the day as they went through red-zone work and end-of-game scenarios. The biggest beneficiary was Jordan Norwood, who got a selection of snaps with the regulars, including back-to-back receptions from Peyton Manning in a two-minute drill. Norwood, who is also getting a long look as the team's punt returner, would solidify his ability to gain a roster spot if he can consistently show he can give the team something at receiver. The fifth-year player has just four career starts -- all in 2011 with the Cleveland Browns.
  • Rookie running back Juwan Thompson got additional work with the starting offense and also continues to show he's up to the mental challenge. "You just want to be prepared at any given time when Peyton throws anything at you. At the end of the day, I can just ask him, so that I can feel 100 percent guaranteed about what I'm doing out there." Thompson figures to get plenty of work Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers since Montee Ball won't play (appendectomy) and C.J. Anderson just returned to practice Thursday after suffering a concussion. The Broncos believe Ball will return to practice on at least a limited basis next week, possibly as early as Tuesday's practice.
  • Von Miller's mother, Gloria, has been a regular visitor to training camp practices. After Friday's morning workout, Von took defensive end DeMarcus Ware over the meet her. "That's the first time she's met DeMarcus," Miller said. "DeMarcus is her second favorite player in the league, and she wanted to meet him ... She's a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, too." As Miller does more and more in practices in his return from ACL surgery, he and Ware have shown more of their potential in the pass rush. Friday, with Manning under center on one play, Miller launched himself around right tackle Chris Clark and got to Manning before Manning had even finished his dropback.
  • Odd and ends: Aqib Talib intercepted Manning in the end zone in a red-zone drill, a pass intended for Andre Caldwell ... Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler had a difficult sequence in end-of-game work against the second-team defense with what would have been a sack/fumble if defenders were allowed to hit the quarterbacks, to go with an interception by rookie linebacker Lamin Barrow on the next snap.


Broncos Camp Report: Day 20

August, 12, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • When the Broncos starting offense opened team drills in Tuesday’s first practice, it was undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson at running back as the group went though some situational work. It was a product of two running backs currently being sidelined, as Montee Ball recovers from an appendectomy and C.J. Anderson from a concussion, but also a sign of Thompson’s progress since training camp opened. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Tuesday he was familiar with the Duke running back’s work long before Thompson was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted rookie in May. Manning and the Broncos' pass catchers have spent parts of the last two offseasons working at Duke. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is also a trusted Manning confidante and his former offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Thompson has earned raves from the Broncos for his ability to adjust on the fly and get the play right when Manning or backup Brock Osweiler make changes before the snap. Ronnie Hillman is still working at Ball’s primary backup, but Thompson, who is also the biggest back on the roster, is making a serious case to be among the final 53.
  • Tight end Jacob Tamme was back at practice Tuesday. He was excused for Monday’s practice as well as the team’s second practice this past Saturday night, as his wife just gave birth to the couple’s second child last week. Tamme, who has consistently made impact plays thus far in camp, created space to get the ball time and time again Tuesday, including a long completion from Osweiler toward the end of the workout. He will get plenty of snaps in some of the team’s two-tight end looks when the Broncos pair him with Julius Thomas. But Tamme's play has been top tier, starting with his one-handed touchdown reception in the team's first stadium scrimmage.
  • One overriding theme in this training camp as compared to last year's is the ability of the team’s defense to make life more difficult for the offense in team drills. In one team period Tuesday, had defensive players been allowed to hit the quarterback, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller would have each had sacks when it was starters against starters. Ware beat left tackle Ryan Clady to the corner one play, and Miller then beat right tackle Chris Clark later in the same drill.
  • The Broncos will have combined practices with the Houston Texans next week as both team prepare for an Aug. 23 preseason game in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. However, it won’t be full-go in practice with the regular season being two weeks away. Broncos head coach John Fox said the two teams will practice at “thud" tempo, which means defenders and offensive players will make impact on plays but will not tackle to the ground.
  • In addition to Ball and Anderson, defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee) and defensive end Greg Latta (right hip) were again held out of practice. Ball and Anderson did take part in the team’s walk-through Tuesday evening. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had been held out of three straight practices because of a thigh injury -- though he did play 20 snaps in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night -- returned to practice. When the Broncos starters lined up in a two-tight end set with two wide receivers in the formation, it was most often Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at wideout.
  • Odds and ends: Wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler in the preseason opener and continues to push for a roster spot, got some work with Manning and some other starters in a 7-on-7 period Tuesday ... An end-of-game, end-of-half practice period featured a couple penalties, with defensive tackle Marvin Austin jumping offside on a third-down play that gave the offense a first down. The offense later had a false start penalty in the same period.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 19

August, 11, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Linebacker Von Miller, who tore his ACL in the Broncos’ Week 16 win over the Houston Texans last December, continues to progress toward his full return. When training camp opened Miller was essentially limited to individual drills to go with some additional work in seven-on-seven drills. But he has steadily added more in team drills with each passing practice, including Monday when the Broncos were in full pads. It means Miller is likely on track to participate in team drills when the Broncos have the Houston Texans in town next week for three days of practices before the two teams play Aug. 23 in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It also means that Texans game should be the first look at what the defense looks like with Miller and DeMarcus Ware in the same formation.
  • A seven-on-seven drill is routinely built to favor the offense with no pass rush and plenty of space for the receivers to work, but backup quarterback Brock Osweiler still had a particularly fruitful session worth noting in the practice, tossing two touchdown passes to Nathan Palmer, who spent some time on the Broncos' practice squad last season, as well as a scoring pass to undrafted rookie Bennie Fowler -- all three came in red zone work. On Osweiler’s first scoring pass to Palmer, he dropped it into the right back corner of the end zone over the outstretched arm of cornerback Tony Carter. Again those drills are usually tipped toward the offense, but the throws were accurate and on time.
  • The Broncos’ pass-catchers also had some bobbles on the day as Palmer fumbled in one drill while Isaiah Burse and Fowler dropped catchable passes in one-on-one drills. Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas and Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas also dropped passes on plays they usually make. Demaryius Thomas' drop came after a spectacular release to shake cornerback Jerome Murphy at the line of scrimmage, but he couldn't hang on to Peyton Manning's pass.
  • Running back Montee Ball said it would be “about a week’’ before he could do some light running as he returns from an appendectomy. And his prediction was right on as a week to the day from Ball’s surgery, he was allowed to do some light running Monday. While there is still a chance he would play in the team’s third preseason game -- against the Texans -- it still appears the schedule will be to hold him out of the preseason games and he would start the Sept. 7 opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Odds and ends: With wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders getting the day off because of a thigh injury -- he played 20 snaps in the preseason opener last Thursday night -- Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell lined up as the two outside receivers with the starters. … Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer once again showed the size-speed combination the Broncos wanted when they picked him in the second round of May’s draft. Manning hit him down the seam in one-on-ones as Latimer outran rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. … Defensive end Malik Jackson first deflected a pass and then intercepted it in team drills, … Former Broncos Brian Dawkins and Jason Elam were at Monday’s practice.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos continue to grind through their preseason work, and as they get set to roll through their third week with Monday morning's practice, here’s are some things to consider:
  • Nate Irving has shown the coaches he intends to be the team’s middle linebacker, and it would take some unexpected events at this point for Irving not to be the guy in the middle of the base defense. Now, that is certainly a specialty package of sorts given that the Broncos line up in the nickel more than twice as often as they do in base, but Irving has done everything the team wants him to do. And more importantly, he has improved his game since the last time they tried him in the middle before eventually moving him out of the job. So far he has been consistent in his run fits, quick to the ball and reliable in finishing tackles.
  • The Broncos are a deep team, one that’s finished 13-3 in back-to-back seasons and retained a fairly youthful roster. With that said, there aren’t all that many roster spots in play. Still, two players who arrived a bit under the mainstream radar are making pushes to star. Rookie running back Juwan Thompson, if he maintains his current momentum, is a viable option to get snaps in the offense with the proficiency he’s shown in pass protection and the athleticism running the ball. Toss in his special-teams abilities and he should make it. The tougher question will be fifth-year wide receiver Jordan Norwood. Norwood, who has started four games in his previous four NFL seasons combined, has shown he fits the offense and could contribute as a receiver -- there are several rosters in the league he could make -- so if he can win the punt returner job, the Broncos will have to make room.
  • Rookie tackle Michael Schofield didn’t get a snap on offense in the preseason opener -- he did play six snaps on special teams -- but in looking at practice it’s clear the kid still deserves a chance at the right tackle spot. Sure, he’s going to make a mistake or two, but he looks to have the goods and will bear watching in next Sunday’s preseason game in San Francisco.
  • One of the best things the Broncos did in the preseason opener was to give backup quarterback Brock Osweiler a chance to rebound from an interception. He’s in his third season of one of the more odd apprenticeships the league has to offer. He knows the playbook, but he still needs to play. And if that means he gets more snaps than the usual No. 2 in a preseason, so be it. But the fact the Broncos let him play through three quarters last Thursday night is time well invested. Osweiler rebounded from his mistake to later make a touchdown throw -- a 34-yard rocket to Norwood down the hash -- that showed why he clearly has starter potential. Plenty of surviving as a quarterback in the league is bouncing back from a mistake to play with confidence. The Broncos need to know Osweiler can do that, and the only way to find out is to give him preseason snaps.
  • It will be a surprise if the Broncos don’t consistently create pressure on opposing passers. Their specialty packages -- nickel and dime -- will be intriguing once they unveil what they will do in the regular season. But having Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Quanterus Smith and Malik Jackson all in some kind of a front-seven mix gives defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio plenty of options.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 17

August, 9, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Linebacker Lerentee McCray, who has worked at Von Miller’s strong-side linebacker spot as the Broncos weave Miller into practice on a graduated basis after Miller’s ACL surgery, continues to flash in practice. In Saturday morning’s workout, McCray returned a Peyton Manning pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage for a touchdown. “It was a pretty good feeling to get my hands on the ball and go the other way.’’ McCray, Brandon Marshall and rookie Lamin Barrow are poised to be the fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers who will make the roster behind the starters when cuts come. The Broncos could have room for one more if they keep seven – they did in 2011 and 2012. The Broncos kept six last season.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, who played 20 plays in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks after being held out of practice Tuesday, was again held out of Saturday morning’s full practice – he took part in the Saturday evening walk-through. The Broncos lined up Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell with the starting offense in the two outside spots. At one point in team drills, Manning tried to power a ball up the right sideline to Caldwell, but cornerback Aqib Talib closed the gap and knocked the ball away.
  • Much like Thursday’s effort when backup quarterback Brock Osweiler rebounded from an interception to throw a touchdown pass, the third-year passer rebounded from a rough set of drills to far better work later in practice. Osweiler had a tipped pass intercepted by Omar Bolden and had another pass intercepted deep down the field in the same drill by John Boyett. But Osweiler recovered quickly and later hooked up for a touchdown with Cody Latimer. On Osweiler’s progress overall, Broncos coach John Fox said Saturday; “He’s just gotten better … how he functions under pressure, I think, continues to improve and I think he took a big step Thursday night,’’
  • With Montee Ball coming off an appendectomy and C.J. Anderson recovering from a concussion, undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson continues to make his presence felt. Thompson got some snaps with the first-team offense Saturday. With the second-team offense later, he broke off the biggest run of the day, out-running safety Duke Ihenacho the final 25 yards or so to close the deal. Thompson, who played for David Cutcliffe at Duke, is well-versed in pass protection and has shown consistent hands. But in the run game he has shown quality decisiveness -- he squares his shoulders and hits the hole -- and more top-end speed than perhaps the Broncos' believed he had.
  • Odds and ends: Rookie Michael Schofield was the right tackle with the second-team offense in Saturday’s practice. Schofield did not play on offense in the preseason opener, but did play six snaps on special teams … Will Montgomery took a smattering of snaps at center with first-team offense … Cornerback Kayvon Webster was doing extra sprints after practice, running a hill adjacent to the team’s fields.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The bottom line in any NFL season will always be what happens in the season's final game.

The champs are the champs and everybody else is not. Or as Denver Broncos coach John Fox has put it: "There's only one happy team at the end of every season. Everybody else is mad they weren't that team, living with that bitter taste and thinking about how good an opportunity they gave themselves to be that team."

[+] Enlarge Peyton Manning
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyPeyton Manning threw 10 completions for 78 yards in the Broncos' 21-16 preseason win Thursday night.
So, what happened in Super Bowl XLVIII will always be what happened for the Broncos. And what happens in any of their four preseason games in the new season can't wash that away, no matter how much August optimism is wrapped around it all.

Still, for a team that watched its title hopes swept away in back-to-back seasons in that final game, the Broncos are going to take a little solace when they show bounce-back ability at any time, even in a preseason game like Thursday night's.

"We are just trying to have a different mentality this year," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Running the ball, defense, be physical to go with everything else this team can do."

The high-flying Broncos at times have wrestled with the "finesse" label since quarterback Peyton Manning arrived in 2012, but scoring a single-season record 606 points will do that in the second of back-to-back 13-3 seasons. Especially when most of those touchdowns came out of a three-wide-receiver formation with Manning in the shotgun and the Broncos working at warp speed.

But against the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason opener, the Broncos showed a little get-up-off-the-mat personality.

They rolled the dice a bit, using a preseason game for what a preseason game is for -- to work on stuff -- when they opened their first possession on offense in power looks. They got one first down, but didn't move past their own 37 before their first punt.

They came back on their next possession, using their favorite look on offense -- three wide receivers -- for a 14-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that took 9 minutes, 9 seconds off the clock. That touchdown drive was longer in elapsed time than any such drive the Broncos had in all of 2013.

The Broncos also had four penalties on the drive to go with a bad snap on a second-and-goal from the Seahawks' 2.

"I've never had an 18-play drive in the preseason, I've never had anything like that," Manning said. "I know the coaches will probably be pleased that it's a lot of plays to learn from on the film. All I can say is that it's good we overcame some things. The flags were out tonight. I think that was clear. The fact that we were able to overcome some penalties and still get a touchdown drive -- I always talk about getting situations to occur in the preseason -- that's something that you want to be able to overcome in the regular season. You get a penalty, 'Hey, it's bad, but let's try to find a way to overcome it.' "

Backup Brock Osweiler ended the third quarter with a wish-he-could-have-it-back interception, but rebounded to throw a 34-yard touchdown on the team's next possession.

Early in the third quarter, the Broncos also overcame a sequence of penalties on four consecutive plays, a feat that would have been far more difficult, facing a first-and-35 situation, had they not been bailed out by a pass interference penalty on Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane in the fifth play of the sequence.

"We know the season is where we'll show what we can do, but still you always want to be a team that can overcome things, in any game, starters and backups," Knighton said. "That's always going to help you. Things are going to happen, football is one of those games, it's not always going to be pretty. The good teams overcome the things that happen to it in a game. Just line up and play the next play."

Said Osweiler: "You've got to erase. You've got to move forward."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There is a lot to dislike about the preseason.

There is the limited work for the players the fans know best, the ones they want to see the most. And the four games that don't count in the standings, when most folks in the league believe the regular season could easily get teed up after two August games.

There is the looming threat of injury, the biggest reason training camps now bear little resemblance to those of years gone by.

Then again, there is Brock Osweiler.

[+] EnlargeBrock Osweiler
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyBackup quarterback Brock Osweiler on his progress: "I feel like I'm playing at a much higher level than I did last year, and especially my rookie year."
"I’m excited to go out there and see what I can do," Osweiler said. "You always want to compete, we all signed up to play. That’s what I want to do."

But Osweiler's view is also that of a guy who is now in his third year of one of the most demanding quarterback schools pro football has to offer. He’s Peyton Manning's backup, a second-round pick John Elway plucked off the draft board in 2012 to be the heir apparent to a future Hall of Famer.

A future Hall of Famer who has since had two of the best seasons of his career and is coming off an NFL single-season record 55 touchdown passes. Manning, in his post-spinal fusion football life, is still playing at an elite level.

He also rarely misses games -- the only games he has missed in his career came in 2011, following his surgery -- and rarely misses practice.

As a result Osweiler has thrown all of 20 regular-season passes in his extended watch-and-learn mode. Which is why Thursday’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks and the three preseason games that follow, are so important for Osweiler.

With Manning expected to get the shortest of cameos in Thursday’s game and abbreviated outings in the next two, Osweiler will get plenty of work. Some of those snaps will come with the starting offense.

"It’s always a little faster," Osweiler said. "It’s always a little bit different. But that’s one of those things you have to understand. 'Hey, I’m in there with the first group right now, they play a certain way.' And you just need to acclimate to that and adjust and keep the sticks rolling ... There’s no other team I’d rather play, first preseason game. Like I said before, they’re the world champs and they’re the world champs for a reason. I expect their best effort. They have a very talented defense that flies around and gets after it. So I think it’ll be a great challenge for us, but I’m excited for that challenge and I think it’ll be a lot of fun."

Osweiler’s approach during his apprenticeship is one of the reasons Elway liked the big-framed passer so much after just one season as a starter at Arizona State. Elway has consistently talked of Osweiler’s arm strength and mobility as a 6-foot-8, 240-pound player, but Elway also likes the kid's confident swagger and his work ethic.

Osweiler could have taken a more relaxed approach in his day-to-day work with little lure of playing time. Or he could have done what those around him say he has done, show up early (often just before Manning arrives each day) and learn as much as possible.

"He’s put in the work," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "He has benefited so much from Peyton and I think Peyton likes to have a guy so fired up around him as well. And the big thing for us is we don’t change our offense. Brock is going to be ready to run the offense."

That is something Osweiler has taken pride in, too. Asked this week if the Broncos dialed things back for him when he goes in a game, Osweiler said:

"Last I checked we had the same playbook," Osweiler said. "Given each week, the game plan differs and I pride myself on knowing the entire game plan, the entire playbook, and if something’s ever to happen to [Manning], or whatever the case may be and I’m in the game, we’re not going to have to change what we do because I’m the quarterback."

Osweiler did get a little more room to grow as Manning, who battled with sprained ankles for much of the second half of the 2013 season, made a concession in his practice schedule. Manning took some Wednesdays off last season, giving Osweiler extra time with the starting offense.

Osweiler, the youngest quarterback on the draft board in ’12, won’t turn 24 until November. He says Year 3 already feels a bit different than his first two.

"Absolutely, Year 1, it’s almost like the goal is just learning the playbook, and then Year 2 is apply it to the field, eliminate those mistakes you were making in Year 1," Osweiler said. “And same thing goes from Year 2 to Year 3. So from the way practices have gone from the start of training camp, and even back to OTAs, I feel like a completely different quarterback. I feel like I’m playing at a much higher level than I did last year, and especially my rookie year. I have very high goals for myself and very high expectations, and I expect to play well Thursday."

Broncos Camp Report: Day 10

August, 2, 2014
DENVER -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:

  • The Broncos went through 43 plays -- penalties included -- in the scrimmage portion of Saturday’s work at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Though the defense, as is training camp norm, has been a little ahead of the offense in practices over the past week or so, Saturday was solidly a day for the offense. The three quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert -- were a combined 17-of-21 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Manning, against the team’s No. 2 defense, was 7-of-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Both sides kept things pretty vanilla throughout, but in terms of tempo, the first-, second- and third-team offenses worked efficiently out of the no-huddle look.
  • With the progression of Julius Thomas from two injury-marred seasons to Pro Bowl tight end this past season, Jacob Tamme saw his snap count on offense take a significant dip last season. After a 52-catch season in 2012 when Thomas played in just four games and did not have a catch, Tamme had 264 snaps on offense last season -- 21.9 percent of the team’s snaps. But Saturday Tamme once again showed his value in that break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of way. With Thomas having been given the day off because of a thigh bruise, Tamme worked at tight end with the starters and finished out the first drive with a diving one-handed catch for a 17-yard touchdown. Tamme, who is also one of the best special teams players on the roster, came within inches of another touchdown catch on the second drive. "Jacob is always there when you need him," Manning said.
  • Manning and the offensive starters worked against the Broncos’ No. 2 defense, so that left Osweiler to have at it against the Broncos' starting defense. Though linebacker Von Miller, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson were held out of the scrimmage, Osweiler faced more pressure in the pass rush than the other two quarterbacks did -- Danny Trevathan had what was called a sack (quarterbacks were not hit) and the second-team offense had five called runs in its 11 plays of work to go with two Osweiler scrambles. However Osweiler was 3-of-3 for 33 yards and a touchdown. Osweiler had a 22-yard completion to former Arizona State teammate Gerell Robinson on a third-and-2 and later had a 2-yard shovel pass to Robinson for a score. "Brock’s had a good camp," Manning said. "He’s just improved every single year that he’s been here and I thought he had a really good day as well."
  • The running back rotation Saturday showed where things are as the first preseason game approaches, Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman worked with the No. 1 offense, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson worked with the second-team offense, and Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay split the carries with the third-team offense. Thompson’s size (225 pounds) and his ability in pass protection and as a receiver have pushed him up the depth chart. Anderson continues to show that dropping almost 20 pounds between minicamp and the start of training camp was a wise move that likely saved him a quality shot at a roster spot, because he was on wobbly ground with the team's decision-makers after the June minicamp.
  • In what was the most extensive live tackling the Broncos have done so far in camp, there were some signs of rust. Hillman broke a tackle on a 10-yard catch-and-run on the team's first drive, rookie wide receiver Bennie Fowler later broke a tackle on a 9-yard gain and the starting defense surrendered a 16-yard run to Anderson and the second-team offense. Defensive end Derek Wolfe said; "obviously we need to work on out tackling." And defensive tackle Terrance Knightson said "We're going against the best offense in the game, so we'll be ready for anybody."
  • Odds and ends: The Broncos' kickers kicked extra-point attempts from the 15-yard line, an experiment in place league-wide for the Hall of Fame game and the first two weeks of the preseason ... Julius Thomas was held out of the scrimmage with a thigh bruise suffered in Friday’s practice, but the injury wasn’t considered serious and following the workout Thomas said; "I’m good." ... There were 38,620 fans on hand for the scrimmage. With the 9,207 who turned out Wednesday in a downpour and 21,993 for a practice last Sunday, 69,820 people turned out for the team’s three stadium practices combined. Fans could not attend practices at the Broncos’ complex during this training camp because of construction at the facility.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 9

August, 1, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler will get a rather tidy training camp exam Saturday morning. The Broncos will hold their annual practice/summer scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And after some of their usual drills to open the workout they will send the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense for 12 plays of live tackling. And that means Osweiler and the No. 2 offense will try its hand against the No. 1 defense. "Brock is really going to have to be smart and moving the ball well against the 1s," Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. The combination to keep an eye on, at least if the last few days of practice are any indication, is Osweiler and undrafted rookie Bennie Fowler. The two have connected on several big plays, including touchdown throws Thursday and Friday. Fowler has worked with the second-team offense lately and if he's on the field Osweiler will look his way.
  • The running back rotation in the scrimmage will bear watching, especially how things go with the second and third units. Montee Ball figures to get most, or all, of the carries with the starters with Ronnie Hillman working as his backup right now. C.J. Anderson is expected to run with the second team while Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay will likely mix and match with the third-team offense. Thompson, however, has taken second-team snaps in camp in short-yardage work.
  • Following Friday's practice, Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had high praise for cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s work in coming back from ACL surgery in February. Harris was cleared to return to practice this week, less than six months following his surgery. "I've been around guys that have rehabbed and come back from injury, but I don't know if I've ever seen a guy more determined every day with great energy attacking it the way he did," Del Rio said. "He's really stayed engaged mentally in the meetings. He's worked extremely hard and been very diligent, and it's gone well -- no setbacks or anything."
  • Linebacker Jamar Chaney, who started 23 games for the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in his career and had a three-interception season in 2011, had a leaping pick on a Zac Dysert pass in Friday's red-zone drills. Chaney leaped high to tip the ball up and then caught the tipped ball. Chaney, who has worked with the third-team defense the majority of the time, faces a tight battle at linebacker for the last few spots. The team kept seven linebackers in the cut to 53 players in 2011 and 2012 to go with six at the position last season.
  • The Broncos' practice/scrimmage at 11 a.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be their only practice Saturday.
  • Odds and ends: Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who left Thursday's practice with stiffness in his lower back, was back on the field Friday ... Safety Quinton Carter, who is on track to make the roster after two missed seasons with knee troubles, finished his work in a team drill at one point in Friday's practice and jumped on a stationary bike to ride for a few minutes. He then returned to practice ... Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders reached high for a scoring grab in the back of the end zone in team drills, getting his feet down just before crossing the end line ... Hillman got a few carries with the starting offense in run-game work.