Brock Osweiler can keep Denver in playoff race

Sam Monson explains that while Brock Osweiler wasn't great in his starting debut, he should be able to keep Denver in the playoff mix.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Brock Osweiler can keep Denver in playoff race


It didn’t take long after tuning in to the Denver-Chicago broadcast to hear the first two references to “6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler,” as though the Broncos quarterback has his height permanently installed as a prefix to his full name, but after leading a win over the Bears, at least now he has a victory to hang his hat on, rather than just his stature.

While the talk of Osweiler playing well meaning that Peyton Manning might not get his starting job back seems premature, we have at least seen that Denver can let Manning focus on getting healthy – even if his absence becomes a longer-term thing – and hand the reins over to Osweiler without the fear of winning zero games before they wheel Manning back out again.

I was not high on Osweiler coming into this game from the tape I had seen of him previously, and though his performance against Chicago wasn’t nearly as impressive as the base statistics suggest, it was still a marked uptick on what I was expecting.

He had a passer rating of 146.9 when he was kept clean in this game, completing 18 of 20 passes from a perfect pocket and notching 11.3 yards per attempt. When he did feel the heat, his numbers tumbled, and he had a passer rating of just 42.0.

I’m certainly not trying to paint a performance in which Osweiler completed 20 of 26 attempts for 250 yards and two scores as “bad,” but context is important here. 168 of those yards came after the catch, with Demaryius Thomas in particular turning one of those passes from nothing into a score with some impressive work of his own that owed little to his quarterback.

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What we saw was a quarterback who could get enough done to secure a team win, which is all Denver needs right now.

The key part of his performance is that it was the kind of efficient game-managing display that Denver has been wanting all season. This Broncos defense is good enough to take even an average quarterback to the postseason, and for much of the year has been winning in spite of Manning as much as because of him. For Denver right now, the season has become about surviving until the lights come on in January. This is a team that is built to win now, and with Manning entering what seems likely to be his final season, it is a side whose window may not stay open for long.

In Osweiler the Broncos have a young quarterback who has the chance to audition for his role as Manning’s successor and help the team to reach the playoffs and play at home in their first game. But expecting him to provide a path to Super Bowl glory seems like a stretch. If Denver’s season is to end with a Lombardi Trophy, they need Manning to lead the team there. What Osweiler has shown them in this game, however, is that they may not need to throw Manning back out there just to put them in position to even play come January. Osweiler played well enough Sunday to keep this team in the playoff mix.

| Senior Analyst

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

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Broncos defense will determine how far they go this year. Normally the QB position is critically important but Denver could probably get by even if they had to get Jake Plummer back on the roster.

    • Vitaliy Pchelkin

      Im agree

  • southsidechicago

    and, it was against a poor bears pass defense.

    • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

      He looked good in the preseason v. the starters for Seattle. This is how he has looked for awhile . . . efficient, few mistakes, mobile. Not enough experience to really run the game himself. Brock will be a decent QB, at least in that 2nd tier where Flacco and Dalton reside.

  • Names Unimportant

    I’m optimistic that Osweiler can improve on Sunday’s performance. Yes, he was awful under pressure and it appeared that he was processing reads slowly, leading to sacks in a few cases (just throw the damn’ ball away and avoid the sack!). Even when he was clearly indecisive and uncertain, he only threw a couple of risky-looking balls against an admittedly soft Bears defense. All of that is normal for a young, inexperienced QB and he’s likely to get better. I found some of his mechanical inconsistencies more alarming for the long term—a guy that tall needs to be pretty crisp, mechanically, or his accuracy will suffer. Short-term, teams like the Patriots (this Sunday night) will make sure his mechanics break down with lots of exotic pressures. I’m sure Kubiak and Dennison will answer with lots of quick slants, draws, screens, and tight-end fun off the 3-step drop.

    The Broncos line was more of a hot mess under the Kubiak/Shanahan system Sunday and that remains a key concern for the Broncos. I thought the change in QB might improve matters up front, but outside of those Ryan Harris-led screens down the left, I saw nothing from the line to engender optimism for the postseason (I can’t recall a guard getting completely blown up on a bull rush like Mathis did—despite his overall good grade for the game). Osweiler will improve and his passing under duress is likely to get better, but right now, he’ll need it. If he stays pick free, let Peyton heal. This team isn’t looking like a Super Bowl contender until that line starts playing better.

  • Abnormal1

    Denver Fan here. Osweiler is a “Game Manager”.
    I hope the Broncos draft a QB next year.
    I think Dak Prescott, (QB) Miss State, would look nice in “Orange and Blue.”