ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Every practice snap can help Brock Osweiler. So a session like Monday's, in which he worked with most of the first team while Peyton Manning and others rested, has value in his development.
But Osweiler is approaching the point where his progress will reach an impasse without competitive game repetitions. He has just 30 regular-season passes on his resume, and 28 of those were in games where he entered long after the matter had been decided.
Osweiler hasn't started in a competitive game since the Dec. 22, 2011 Maaco Bowl against Boise State. But as long as Peyton Manning is healthy and available, regular-season game snaps just aren't going to come his way.
Practice matters. But how he takes it to preseason games could matter more.
"Looking back to high school, college, getting to play in some garbage time here or there, I really think when you're finally out in that fire and you're with the first group and the game's on the line and you're the guy, that's where you really learn things," Osweiler said. "Obviously, you need to take things from the practice field. You need to be able to translate those to the game.
"I'm a firm believer that you play like you practice. But to answer your question, yes -- real, live game reps, there's nothing that can replace those."
What he got Monday was the next best thing, and, for now, the closest he will come -- unless he gets first-team work during some preseason games, as well. It was a chance to receive snaps from first-team center Gino Gradkowski, hand off to No. 1 running back C.J. Anderson and hone timing with Pro Bowl wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.
And that's where the daily takeaways begin.
1. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT HELPING OSWEILER DEVELOP ...
... It's about making sure that the first-teamers get accustomed to him. It's unfair to compare Osweiler to Manning, but their styles are different; Osweiler is more mobile and can extend plays longer when he gets outside the pocket, and he's a greater threat to run.
That can open the window for secondary options to develop -- and for receivers to break off their routes to try and shake free. Osweiler was able to find Thomas near the sideline after rolling to his left; Thomas managed to tap his feet in bounds for the reception.
There were some rough moments. A short pass to Cody Latimer was nearly intercepted by Kayvon Webster. A chance at a deep completion in a seven-on-seven period to Sanders saw the pass sail over Sanders' head; that's one Osweiler clearly wanted to have back. But despite plays like that misfire, Osweiler has connected on a slew of deep tosses in the last three days of practice.
"I think that he did pretty well," Sanders said. "We connected on three or four passes and there are some that we could have connected on, but that all comes with time. We worked on it after practice so everything should be fine."
It's just a matter of getting his timing with Sanders and Thomas to the same spot as it is with backups like Jordan Norwood and Jordan Taylor. That will take time, and that's why Monday's work matters.
"I'm very comfortable with him and very confident," Sanders said. "He's a guy that has been here a while. It's a fresh start for everybody in this playbook so he's out to prove himself also.
"I think that -- I don't want to say it -- but if anything happens to Peyton [Manning], I think he'll come in and help fill that void."
And if Osweiler's time arrives, the offense will play to his strengths -- which on Monday included his rollouts and play-action. One of his best passes saw him execute a letter-perfect playfake to C.J. Anderson before finding Latimer on a post route up the right side.
You can look for the good and the bad in every player's practice performance -- especially that of the quarterback. But the truth is often in between.
"I think every single practice, including today, you're going to have some ups, you're going to have some downs," Osweiler said. "It's all about how you bounce back from the downs."
Monday, he showed that he could rebound well.
2. DYSERT AND SIEMIAN BOTH MOVED UP, AS WELL.
Given Osweiler's status as the stated "quarterback of the future," his expiring contract after the season and the Broncos' four-year investment in him, it's understandable that the spotlight was on him.
But Zac Dysert and Trevor Siemian saw more work, as well. They went from splitting the third-team repetitions to each having a unit of their own to guide. Both looked smooth rolling out and making plays out of the pocket. Each completed a variety of throws.
"I like rolling out," Dysert said. "I think I throw on the run pretty well. I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did it a lot in college. I've got a lot of experience with it and I like doing it."
A high point for the two passers was a laser Siemian fired to Virgil Green in the seven-on-seven period. Green worked past Shane Ray for the catch near the right sideline. Dysert's experience helps him, but Siemian also continues to improve and possesses a strong arm.
3. GAME SIMULATIONS.
The practice closed with the first "move-the-ball" work of the summer. The defense recorded three stops, with the No. 1 defense forcing a three-and-out against the No. 2 offense after a second-down sack forced the offense into third-and-16, from which Dysert hit Dominique Jones for an 11-yard reception.
Siemian led the third-team offense to one first down before the drive petered out; his drive was punctuated by a 4-yard third-and-2 pass to Jordan Taylor that saw the rookie receiver tap his feet in bounds just in time. That series stalled three plays later.
Defensive penalties helped Osweiler and the No. 1 offense cross midfield against the No. 2 defense, but a penalty also scuttled the series. Two offsides penalties helped push the offense to the defense's 49-yard-line, but a 20-yard, third-and-1 completion from Osweiler to James Casey on a beautifully executed rollout was wiped out by a downfield holding call after the reception. If not for the penalty, Osweiler would have gone 4-of-4 for 41 yards with one sack taken on the series.
Day 4 of training camp at UCHealth Training Center where several of the Broncos veteran players were given a day off by Head Coach Gary Kubiak. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)
- SOLOMON PATTON SHOWED SOMETHING MORE.**
Sunday, Kubiak indicated that he was pleased with Solomon Patton's progress as a punt and kickoff returner, but noted that he needed to show some value on offense in order to make the 53-man roster.
"He's a good returner. The question is going to be can he run in enough spots at wide receiver to play?" said Kubiak. "It's really hard to exclusively keep returners. You want guys to do more. If they're the best in the league, you'd probably find a way to do it. Other than that, they have to be able to do other things. I think we feel good about the return part. We have to find out if he can do some work outside."
And that's why the deep reception up the right sideline that he made late in Monday's practice could be significant. Patton broke upfield and made a catch between two defenders, leaping and showing outstanding body control to make the reception from Trevor Siemian.
With Kyle Williams on season-ending injured reserve, Patton is in the thick of a competition that includes Jordan Norwood and Omar Bolden. There's no question that the quick, explosive Patton can handle return duties. But with roster spots at a premium, it's what else he -- and the other returners -- can do that will determine how the competition ends.
5. BRAWLERS IN THE MIDDLE.
In one-on-one pass-rush drills, the defense has the advantage. Even the best offensive linemen will get beaten in that scenario. But what do the O-linemen do? How quickly do they get their hands set? Do they hold their ground?
On both counts, center Matt Paradis and guard Max Garcia are faring well. Both are technically sound, but they also have a tenacious mentality that helps them hold their ground against Sylvester Williams, who has been consistently disruptive since the start of training camp. With Garcia in particular, this should come as no surprise; that same style caught the eyes of many who watched the Senior Bowl and its practices in January and saw him duel with Washington's gargantuan force of nature, Danny Shelton, now with the Browns.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak singled Garcia out for praise.
"Max was a presence on the field today. We ran a lot of gap schemes in our teaching today, which is different for us," Kubiak said. "He really showed up as a player, but let's remember that Max is a four-year starter at Florida (and Maryland). He played for about four different coordinators and played in a lot of big games.
"This isn't too big for him and I think that he kind of shows that every day."
The competition for center and left guard appears to be intensifying, and the play of Garcia and Paradis is a massive reason why.