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The Brock Osweiler Quandary

Monday, August 11, 2014 12:12pm
The final stats from Thursday night look unimpressive at first glance. Brock Osweiler completed 6 passes on 12 attempts for 85 yards, with one interception and one touchdown. He was also credited for 6 carries for 17 yards. Considering that he was facing 2nd and 3rd string defenses, there is nothing particularly eye-popping about these numbers.
 
However, a more in-depth analysis provides some signs of progress for the second round pick in the 2012 draft. Both Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler had balls hit them in the hands. While one could argue the Latimer throw deep down the left sideline was underthrown, it could have been hauled in nonetheless. The Fowler drop was the bigger sin as the throw was on the mark hitting the receiver in stride. An undrafted rookie free agent, as Fowler is, desperately needs to make those kinds of catches. As Falcons superstar Roddy White pointed out in last week’s season debut of “Hard Knocks” on HBO, if you make those catches you eat steak, but if you drop those balls you eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
 
The other big play missed was Osweiler’s deep ball to rookie Greg Hardin. The ball landed right next to Hardin without him even reaching for it. Perhaps he lost it in the lights, perhaps he never saw the ball through his defender. Either way, it was another throw that was on target that ends up as merely another incompletion on the stat sheet.
 
Even with those misses, Osweiler still made notable plays. His 15 yard scramble on 3rd and 14 showed the kind of athleticism the ex-basketball player possesses, and his 34 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Norwood on the very next play was strong and accurate, a beautiful throw.
 
Now, one must take the entire body of work into account when judging Osweiler’s first exhibition performance of 2014. Yes, he did all those positive things previously mentioned. He also threw a very ill-advised interception deep in the Broncos’ own territory on the final play of the 3rd quarter. Osweiler locked eyes on tight end Gerell Robinson, who was open briefly. The problem was that by the time Osweiler let it fly, Robinson was no longer open, and the ball was picked off.
 
The good news is that Osweiler bounced back with a 10 play, 80 yard touchdown drive his next time on the field. The interception, while bad, can also be excused by a lack of game action. Osweiler has barely played since being drafted, stuck behind Peyton Manning in the ultimate “learn-from-the-best” apprenticeship. Even Manning had Osweiler’s back concerning the interception. “That interception—I was watching from the sideline, and I was saying throw it to the same guy, myself,” said Manning.  “It was one of those that the guy looked open when you throw it, and once the ball leaves your hand, there’s plenty you’d like to have back. Great job coming back and a great throw to [WR Jordan] Norwood on that touchdown, and a great catch by Jordan as well.”
 
Brock Osweiler is a back-up quarterback that John Elway drafted in the 2nd round when he already had Manning on the roster, so Osweiler will never be able to win in the make-snap-judgments Twitter world that we live in. While the team had major needs on defense going into that draft, Elway chose to make an insurance pick with Osweiler given that Manning, coming off 4 neck surgeries, was hardly a sure thing. In doing so, Elway left LB Lavonte David on the board (who looks like a star in Tampa Bay), and Russell Wilson (drafted 18 picks later and currently sporting a Super Bowl ring). The choice was instantly criticized by many, and as such, anything that Osweiler does is framed in that narrative of failure. All Thursday’s interception did was add fuel to the fire for his (and the pick’s) detractors.
 
The reality on Osweiler exists somewhere in the middle between young developing quarterback and abject disaster, but nobody wants to acknowledge that as they #EmbraceDebate in the “First Take” culture of stupidity that is the sports world of 2014. Osweiler’s interception looked like the work of a guy who hasn’t had enough game experience, while his touchdown drive looked like the work of a guy that finally started to feel comfortable thanks to some game experience. While his training  camp reps are over-scrutinized, the word from inside the organization is that they’re pleased with Osweiler’s progress. The work ethic is there both on the field and in the meeting room, and he’s learning the importance of leadership and professionalism from Manning and Adam Gase.
 
Osweiler is big, athletic, shifty, and has a cannon for an arm. All the things Elway saw on film were on display Thursday. Conspiracy theorists will note that Osweiler was buddies with Jack Elway at Arizona State. That may be the case, but I’m sure Elway’s son has plenty of other friends that aren’t on the Broncos roster. John Elway is not about to give out a roster spot on a professional football team for sentimental reasons, so strike that idea right away.
 
The debate over whether Osweiler stinks and can never start for the Broncos or whether Osweiler is fully capable of leading the Broncos whenever Manning hangs it up is still premature. I know we need to reach definitive conclusions with no hard evidence in the Twitterverse, but for the sake of reality, let’s just call Brock Osweiler exactly what he is and continues to be: a work in progress. 

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