ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — All eyes are on Peyton Manning, especially rookie Brock Osweiler’s.
The Denver Broncos’ other new quarterback is a 6-foot-8 passing project who’s the first signal-caller ever drafted with the intention of one day succeeding Manning.
Osweiler, who bears a striking resemblance to “Twilight” actor Robert Pattinson, wants to look more like Manning. So, he’s taking advantage of his apprenticeship by asking lots of questions, scribbling copious notes and emulating the four-time MVP on the field and in the weight room.
Osweiler seems genuinely thrilled to be in Manning’s shadow and for however long it takes, gladly biding his time while learning as much as he can from one of the game’s all-time greats.
“Well, I’m in a great situation, no doubt about it,” Osweiler said. “I think the biggest thing for me is I’m not wasting a day. Watching everything Peyton does, taking as many notes as I possibly can.”
A second-round pick who started just one season at Arizona State, Osweiler signed a $3.1 million, four-year contract last month. If all goes well for the Broncos, he’ll become eligible for free agency without ever having taken a meaningful snap because Manning’s $96 million deal is one year longer than Osweiler’s.
The Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32) and boss John Elway believe they’re set at the position for years to come.
“The first thing I really noticed with Peyton is he’s the hardest-working person regardless of any profession I’ve ever been around,” said Osweiler, who at 21 is 15 years Manning’s junior. “And the thing about Peyton is he doesn’t waste a single minute in a day. He utilizes all of his time from the moment he walks into the building until the time that he leaves.”
Although the proof is in the preseason, Osweiler is already making a push at training camp for the No. 2 job ahead of Caleb Hanie and Adam Weber.
Osweiler originally committed to Gonzaga to play basketball before changing his mind. In his one season as the Sun Devils’ starter in 2011, he completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,036 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Osweiler didn’t throw overhand all the time at ASU, however, which negated his height advantage over pass-rushers. So, after deciding to forgo his senior season in a new system under a new coaching staff, he went to work with UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone from January until April to fix flaws in his passing game.
While former Denver QB Tim Tebow’s messy mechanics needed tons of work, Osweiler only needed tweaks, and he worked endless hours with Mazzone, who was his offensive coordinator at Arizona State and also served as Tebow’s offseason throwing coach.
With his old throwing motion, Osweiler couldn’t capitalize on his superior size, dropping his right elbow below his shoulder and winging it out a bit. That cost him accuracy, consistency and velocity.
He’s rediscovered all three attributes throwing overhand, and he’s only reverted to his old ways a couple of times in camp. Each time, quarterbacks coach Adam Gase has been right there to set him straight.
Some of his throws are so quick, it looks like he’s flicking the ball to his receivers. But he remains very much a work in progress.
“The great thing is that he’s taking every note possible, watching Peyton and the other two quarterbacks play,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. “He’s worked extremely hard during the offseason and just shows up every day and tries to get better.
“Obviously, the more time and reps he gets, the better he’ll be, because as a quarterback, you need reps. If you just take one or two snaps here and there, it’s hard to get in the groove, and as you’re learning a new system like he is, it’s going to take some time. So, like we’ve said in the past about the quarterbacks here, there’s going to be some growing pains with him.”
It would behoove both the Broncos and Osweiler if he wins the primary backup job behind Manning as a rookie so he can pick the perfectionist’s brain at practice rather than running the scout team.
“I’ve been in the shoes of a backup quarterback before — I was one for two years — so I know what you need to do throughout, whether it’s a practice or whether it’s a game, to make sure that you’re getting better,” Osweiler said. “So, you’ve got to listen to the conversations Peyton’s having with the coaches, conversations he’s having with the receivers.
“My ears are open, my eyes are wide open and I’m just trying to soak it all in and get better every day.”
Running the no-huddle offense, Osweiler at times looks a little bit like Manning deciphering a defense and changing a call at the line of scrimmage, although nobody in the NFL does it quite like Manning does.
“That’s one thing I’ve really asked Peyton quite a bit about is stuff to do with coverages, and every time he has an answer,” Osweiler said. “And I make a note and at the end of the night, I’m putting all those notes into one kind of main notebook, so one day when Peyton’s not around, I can go back and see what he said about this coverage-2 or what he said about this play.
“There are a lot of words in that notebook.”
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