Better fit for Brock Osweiler: Broncos or Texans?

Houston can offer free-agent QB Brock Osweiler with better pass protection, but Denver's defense might help him more.

| 8 months ago
(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Better fit for Brock Osweiler: Broncos or Texans?

The Brock Osweiler sweepstakes looks like it is coming down to a head-to-head battle between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, now that each has a clear vacancy at the position. How would the free-agent quarterback fit with each team?

Denver Broncos

In theory — although we didn’t see as much of it last year with Peyton Manning as starting QB — Denver’s offense likes to work with a lot of roll-outs off of the outside-zone running game. Think back to Matt Schaub in Houston when he ran this offense well, or Joe Flacco in Baltimore before Kubiak brought it to Denver. Osweiler is not immobile, but nor is he exactly Aaron Rodgers out there on the move.

Osweiler’s career actually only features 18 attempts on roll-outs, and he has completed 11 of them for 130 yards and a score, but how he projects to this Kubiak offense (in that aspect, at least) is pure speculation, except to say he is probably a more natural athlete on the move at this point than Manning was last season.

Denver does at least have more than one legitimate receiving weapon on its roster, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders giving him options with the ball that he wouldn’t have in Houston. The run game would be something of a wash until Denver can revive its offensive line. C.J. Anderson has shown elite play in flashes, but struggled in 2015 when the Denver line was not at its best.

How much protection Osweiler could rely upon in Denver remains a question mark, with that unit in flux. The line was largely hidden by Manning’s ability to get the ball out quickly last season. When Osweiler was under center, the Broncos line surrendered an average of 16.4 total pressures per game, compared to just 9.1 when Manning was there.

Houston Texans

The Texans surrendered 177 total pressures last season on the O-line, which tied them for the seventh-best pass-blocking efficiency in the league. Denver’s line was not good a year ago and Osweiler at least in theory would be walking into an upgrade when it comes to pass-protection, if he came to Houston.

The down side is that the Texans only really have DeAndre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins as a legitimate weapon in the passing game. He is a high level receiver, ending the season trailing only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in PFF receiving grade, but he can’t do it all on his own — and it doesn’t do Osweiler’s development any good being locked in to only one receiver at all times.

The running game in Houston has always been the bedrock of what they do on offense, but the team is moving on from Arian Foster, leaving it with a stable of unproven backs to carry the load, unless the Texans draft one or add one in free agency.

In summary, neither of these teams provide ideal situations for Osweiler, but the fact that Denver has an elite defense that was good enough to win a Super Bowl despite quarterback play no better than what Osweiler is likely to produce makes the Broncos a slightly better fit.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • crosseyedlemon

    While the Broncos defense might give Osweiler the edge he would also be facing stronger defenses in that division than if he were with Houston. No clear advantage either way so he will probably just take the highest offer.

  • Thomas Bell

    This article doesn’t shed much light on the TX offensive system. What is it, exactly, a NE hybrid? I understand O’brien to be a respected offensive mind, but his system didn’t fare to well for Mallet, who looked pretty decent in Baltimore’s win over Pitt, or Hoyer, who turned in one of the ugliest performances of the season. (decade?) Or the other QBs whose names I cannot recall who came in and laid eggs. If a system is “QB friendly” one would at least be able to point to a quarterback that has had success in it. (not named Tom Brady.)

    Tipping the scales in Denver’s favor is that Brock already knows the Denver playbook. One wonders how he would have fared with an entire offseason and four pre-season games, taking meaningful starter snaps and working with the first team receivers. He seemed to get more comfortable in the pocket as the season wore on. Likely, given 16 games, he’d have a couple more clunkers in there…but my guess is his ceiling is much higher that we’ve seen.

    • anon76returns

      I believe Houston runs a mix of Erhardt-Perkins and spread concepts. Gase actually ran a Manning-modified E-P scheme in Denver from 2013-2014 after learning it from McHoodie, so Brock is probably at least as familiar with the basic concepts in Houston as he is with the WCO that Kubiak is running in Denver.

  • Tosan Eyetsemitan

    I think Brock makes a lot more sense in Houston honestly with Bill O’Brien who has been an excellent QB developer and whose offense makes a lot more sense for Brock’s skill set as he will allow him to develop in the pocket and deliver the ball to his receivers down field where I think Cecil Shorts would benefit much more, and having a staple LT like Duane Brown instead of injury riddled Ryan Clady. The blindside protector situation in itself and the fact that the Texans will offer for money would be the deciding point for me personally. As for the lack of a run game, with Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory available and the Texans having over $40 million in salary cap availability there’s no doubt the Texans could get both Brock and Lamar Miller and have plenty of ability in the draft to bring in a Corey Coleman as well to make this offense very potent. Not like the Texans Defense is anything to laugh about either…

    Don’t look now, but the zone-read and roll out concepts might make a lot of sense for Johnny Manziel to go to where his mobility negates the shaky offensive line play and he has true receivers that he rely on. With a guy like Von Miller looking out for him the same way Patrick Peterson did with Tyrann, you mitigate a lot of risk giving him true leadership and a strong defense that allows you to play much more within yourself and play to the ball control game that Russell Wilson has been able to thrive in. Peyton was the 32nd ranked QB according to PFF last year and won a Super Bowl with this team. Johnny was 35th on a much worse team. Bringing in Johnny allows the Broncos to resign Malik Jackson, which will keep the defense elite and coming off a Super Bowl win there will be no pressure to create results immediately.

    • anon76returns

      Malik is gone, man.
      And I’d rather cheer for the Dallas Cowboys than see Johnny Manziel on the Broncos.

      • Tosan Eyetsemitan

        I mean Malik just signed after I wrote this. I’m just saying personally if I’m Brock I think the Texans with Lamar Miller are the best team for my development. You can draft Corey Coleman at 22 and him and Deandre are just as good as Manny and Demaryius. Especially the Demaryius who just signed that new contract. And Lamar Miller is better than any rb the Texans would get, especially if they kick the tires on Arian Foster who i think they might put in a time share with CJ Anderson potentially.

        Johnny I think needs to sit out a year regardless, but the guy has talent. Rushed for over 100 yards and threw for a game winner last season in an abysmal team, you can’t take that away from him. Idk who was a leader there and what kind of support system they had there, but you see in Arizona where Honey Badger who got in just as much legal trouble and issues in college even before the NFL got a chance to be with someone who was like a big brother to him and actually on a good team.. and he ranked as the top cornerback and safety and this is a guy no one wanted to touch. This is the NFL, you find cheap value and see how you can manipulate it to your advantage. To me the offensive scheme, the support system with Von and the fact that the team has a great defense is enough to mitigate a lot of the risks

        • anon76returns

          Honey Badger showed he wanted to play.
          Manziel has shown the worst attitude towards playing football I’ve ever seen- significantly worse (IMO) than Ryan Leaf.
          He doesn’t get it- he bold-faced lies to the coaching staff about his whereabouts, and repeatedly gets into domestic violence situations with his girlfriend. He is toxic well beyond the point where a support system and leadership from teammates can help him out. He needs to figure it out for himself first, and while that’s going on I don’t want him anywhere near the Broncos.

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            He lied to a coaching staff and front office that got fired within an hour of their last game. Again I’m not saying the guy hasn’t had his issues, but I just don’t understand how you can look at a dysfunctional team like was in Cleveland and not at least believe that was part of the equation in terms of how badly things ended. When the best player on your team who was an anomaly for how dynamic of a receiver he was got suspended for the rest of the year, you have to know there are deep seeded issues. No one is arguing that his attitude needs to change, even though on the field he did show a lot of improvement. All I’m telling you is that the guy is going to get another chance somewhere given his pedigree and what he has shown on the field. If you want to bet that we can, but I’m telling you now that he will get another chance. And when someone decides to take a flier its going to be because of 1) the offensive fit and 2) the team infrastructure. So take that for what its worth.

            And Ultimately you have argued with me about Johnny this entire time, but I’m waiting on your retort for why Brock isn’t better fit in Houston. The Broncos have more money available if they keep losing players to big contracts, but again if I am Brock I go to Houston and now you have to find a new QB anyway so idk what to tell you

          • anon76returns

            For the money Osweiller is reportedly asking, I’d be fine with him going to Houston. They run a similar system to what Osweiller was running under Gase, so if he liked that better than the WCO offense of Kubiak, that’s fine. I don’ think their WR or Def talent is on par with Denver’s, but it really comes down to what Brock wants.
            If Brock leaves, then my hope is that the Broncos get the best out of a competition between Simien, RGIII, and a mid-round 2016 draft pick. May the best QB win!

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            I think a healthy JaDaveon and JJ Watt is incredibly terrifying for offenses especially with the growth of Kevin Johnson. Not saying it’s as good as Denver’s, but we’re seeing a lot f attrition in free agency so far especially if Trevathan ends up in Chicago like is being whispered. Evan Mathis potentially gone and Louis Vasquez def gone. All I can think about is the Raiders game honestly. What Khalil Mack did that day would make me never want to play behind that offensive line no matter how good my defense is because they won’t protect me lol. And that’s why I wouldn’t want RG3 either. He was playing behind a much better line and staple LT in Trent Williams and you saw how many hits he took. Cousins took much less sacks than he did when he started playing. What’s worse is just the way the team is set up. You have receivers on the outside who with your number 1 in Demaryius you need time to set up the single receiver routes in play action that he runs. That doesn’t help so much when your offensive line has some holes. The core problem is that the interior pass game is all gone after Welker and Julius Thomas left, and that safety net is what you need. There aren’t even any true pass catching backs in the line up that can help out if the rush gets through quickly, unless you pick up Arian who is going to take time to recover any way. I would be incredibly worried if I had an injury prone RG3 behind that offensive line. I think that would lead to a lot of headaches no matter how good Demaryius and Manny are or have been given Demaryius’ struggles last year

          • John

            I can see why you’d make the case for Manziel to Denver, and on the surface, it seems plausible for the reasons you initially stated. However, given that Elway is the GM (for all intents and purposes) I don’t think Manziel coming to Denver is anything more than a very remote possibility. There’s a reason Elway spent a second round pick at a point when he’d just nabbed Manning and the team was still perceived as a rebuilding project: he is very much enamored with tall, traditional, pocket-passing types of QBs. If there were an opposite of that, it would be Johnny Manziel. And given the message from his father that he’s worried about Manziel surviving the next few years, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Elway won’t be inclined to change his preferences on account of this particular young man…

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            Broncos almost made a trade for Tyrod Taylor last year.. Just not sure where you’re getting Elway’s preferences from

          • John

            Elway went hard after Peyton when it was still a very cagey proposition to give him all that money with his health status so up in the air because Peyton fit the mold (tall pocket passer). Elway drafted Brock right after that with a 2nd, despite just having signed Peyton and despite the Broncos having plenty of other needs at the time, because Brock fit the mold. He was criticized quite a bit for using such a high pick on a guy everyone thought was a project at best at the time of you recall. And while Siemian was obviously a flier with the 250th pick, he’s a 6’3″ pocket passer with a big arm, who they probably took largely based on his measurables (it certainly couldn’t have been based on his production).

            You seeing the pattern now? Plus, Elway has stated his preferences in several interviews. The fact that they’re considering picking up Glennon adds to the narrative. You heard Manziel’s name even once in the past 24 hours?

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            ok let me dispel this now. You brought up Peyton Manning as a tall pocket passer as the reason they took the bet on him. Who was a better option in the QB market? The reason they took the risk on him was because he medically checked out and because he is a top 5 QB all time. So you’re telling me that if Drew Brees was in that situation they wouldn’t take him because he isn’t a tall pocket passer? As a whole, most QB’s are always above 6’0 so your statistics are skewed when you point to a position that historically has tall players. It is the exact same with a player like Derrick Henry who is deemed too tall for the position because running backs are usually much shorter which if you want to believe that is fine, but at the end of the day if the guy fits the scheme like he would in the power run game of Dallas, you prioritize him over the norm. You can count the number of QB’s on your hand in the NFL who are below 6’0 so if that is your argument than I think every single GM in this country looks at “tall QBs”. IF ANYTHING most people who draft QB’s take them based on their hand size more than their actual height that is a much more indicative stat line to look at as the figures are much more variable.

            Also, you bring up Mike Glennon as a new alternative but I can’t help but notice him as being their potential 3rd option. The main two guys that the Broncos are looking at to replace Brock and Peyton are Kaepernick and RG3. These guys are tall but they definitely aren’t pocket passers. You have a coach in Kubiak who masterminds a zone-scheme offense with a lot of roll outs and thus athletic players who can make throws on the run are prioritized over stand in the pocket players who made more sense in the Adam Gase / Bill O’Brien offenses. That was the offense Peyton did best in and what Osweiler learned most from and will look to reciprocate now. The Broncos seem to want a mobile QB who can accentuate the zone read game. You look at average players like Alfred Morris who benefitted incredibly in zone read schemes with a mobile QB more so than pocket QB Cousins, which is why Morris is incredibly expendable now where before he was outperforming blue chip athletes like Lesean McCoy.

            You know who I heard Manziel’s name from; Von Miller. He happens to be the face of the franchise and the MAIN reason why the Broncos are Super Bowl champs. Sooo we can talk about Elway’s “preferences” all we want but when it comes down to it, when you have your super star who is set to make over $60 million guaranteed in the next year advocating for someone he plans on taking care of and the guy fits in the scheme mold of players like RG3 and Kaepernick who are apparently the top 2 options in free agency, maybe you should pay more attention to that….

          • John

            Jesus Christ man, it’s a comments board. No need to write a manifesto for gods sake…perhaps there are better formats for essays if you wanna write them. But you totally undermine anything else intelligent you’d have to say when you, ludicrously, suggest that a star player has more influence on personnel decisions than the GM. Thats absurd–this is the NFL, not the NBA. Oh, and you know who Von went to college with? Johnny Manziel! I wonder if that might be why he mentioned a guy who basically got fired from his first pro job for substance abuse and insubordination as a viable option. Hmmmm…

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            I’m not saying that a star player has more influence over what a GM has to say…. I’m saying that a GM will listen to what a superstar* player has to say way more than anyone else on the team. You just have to remember that every acquisition has inherent synergies based on the ability to assimilate with the team. Chemistry is so important unlike in baseball where batting and pitching make the game so fragmented that you don’t need to have that kind of fit as much.

            At the end of the day Von is advocating for him and wants to help him. Again I’m not sticking up for the kid but it’s very clear that if he can ever get his head on right he will have another chance. All I did was point out to you the case studies with people that had substance abuse problems in the NFL like Tyrann and went to a team with a good big brother little brother program as in his old teammate and franchise player Pat Peterson who took care of him and kept him out of trouble. And this was a guy who went to jail and could not stop smoking and hanging with the wrong crowd after he basically should have been the only defensive player since Charles Woodson to win a Heisman. I apologize for being overblown but I just don’t seem to understand how you can’t find any credence in an endorsement from potentially the best defensive player to ever play for the Broncos?

    • Moralltach

      Bill O’Brien is an excellent QB developer? Have you watched the QB play in Houston these past two years?

      • Tosan Eyetsemitan

        There’s a difference between developing a QB and bringing in veteran’s who already have been raised. The main problem in Houston was that they ran Arian to the ground and that’s what forced Hoyer to play outside of himself. You bring in a guy like Lamar Miller and a young QB and you will see the growth O’Brien can elicit

        • Moralltach

          But what evidence is there for that? Since he became a head coach, he’s started Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, TJ Yates, and Brandon Weeden.

          In 40 combined games, the “young” QBs on that list (<5 years experience) have a combined 72.78 passer rating, and only Brandon Weeden ever did better than 100 in his time with the team.

          I just don't see where you're getting the idea that Bill O'Brien has any special ability for cultivating talent in young QBs.

          • Tosan Eyetsemitan

            And how many of those guys were considered high level prospects? The Texans were criticized greatly last year for not committing to get a Teddy Bridgewater in the draft and that was evident. Not one QB you named should have been the face of a franchise on any team. Fitzpatrick did well when he had a core of Ivory in a strong run game and B Marsh and Decker. Mallett actually showed promise until he missed the plane. Again, the loss of Arian the past two seasons has been the biggest reason for the stall in the offense, but that’s even more apparent when you have incompetent QBs. All I’m saying is that if you look at a guy like Christian Hackenberg who everyone tabbed the number 1 overall pick after one year with BIll O’Brien and that was a guy who actually came in having a lot of talent. For me, I am most impressed with O’Brien for dealing with so many weak players at the position and still managing to take his team to the playoffs albeit in a weak division.

      • Robert J Barnes

        O’Brien’s ability to coach QB is what allowed a fourth stringer, Yates, to beat an undefeated Cincinnati team in Cincinnati. Yates then beat the Jets. The Texans, for the second straight year, has had 4 starting QBs The started seven different QB to accomplish the last two years. Case Keenum was hunting when he got the call. Yates was sitting on his couch. Weeden, who beat the Colts, had been cut from the Cowboys. Hoyer had a 92 QBR but he choked when it counted. Mallet was wildly inconsistent except when it came to the velocity of his pass. It was always 100 MPH. That guy can chuck it 90 plus yards but he has zero touch.

        They went 9-7 twice despite a QB carousel which did not include a real starter.

        Hackenberg’s best year was with O’Brien. He looked like he was going to be a number one draft pick.