ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There is a lot to dislike about the preseason.
There is the limited work for the players the fans know best, the ones they want to see the most. And the four games that don't count in the standings, when most folks in the league believe the regular season could easily get teed up after two August games.
There is the looming threat of injury, the biggest reason training camps now bear little resemblance to those of years gone by.
Then again, there is Brock Osweiler.
"I’m excited to go out there and see what I can do," Osweiler said. "You always want to compete, we all signed up to play. That’s what I want to do."
But Osweiler's view is also that of a guy who is now in his third year of one of the most demanding quarterback schools pro football has to offer. He’s Peyton Manning's backup, a second-round pick John Elway plucked off the draft board in 2012 to be the heir apparent to a future Hall of Famer.
A future Hall of Famer who has since had two of the best seasons of his career and is coming off an NFL single-season record 55 touchdown passes. Manning, in his post-spinal fusion football life, is still playing at an elite level.
He also rarely misses games -- the only games he has missed in his career came in 2011, following his surgery -- and rarely misses practice.
As a result Osweiler has thrown all of 20 regular-season passes in his extended watch-and-learn mode. Which is why Thursday’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks and the three preseason games that follow, are so important for Osweiler.
With Manning expected to get the shortest of cameos in Thursday’s game and abbreviated outings in the next two, Osweiler will get plenty of work. Some of those snaps will come with the starting offense.
"It’s always a little faster," Osweiler said. "It’s always a little bit different. But that’s one of those things you have to understand. 'Hey, I’m in there with the first group right now, they play a certain way.' And you just need to acclimate to that and adjust and keep the sticks rolling ... There’s no other team I’d rather play, first preseason game. Like I said before, they’re the world champs and they’re the world champs for a reason. I expect their best effort. They have a very talented defense that flies around and gets after it. So I think it’ll be a great challenge for us, but I’m excited for that challenge and I think it’ll be a lot of fun."
Osweiler’s approach during his apprenticeship is one of the reasons Elway liked the big-framed passer so much after just one season as a starter at Arizona State. Elway has consistently talked of Osweiler’s arm strength and mobility as a 6-foot-8, 240-pound player, but Elway also likes the kid's confident swagger and his work ethic.
Osweiler could have taken a more relaxed approach in his day-to-day work with little lure of playing time. Or he could have done what those around him say he has done, show up early (often just before Manning arrives each day) and learn as much as possible.
"He’s put in the work," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "He has benefited so much from Peyton and I think Peyton likes to have a guy so fired up around him as well. And the big thing for us is we don’t change our offense. Brock is going to be ready to run the offense."
That is something Osweiler has taken pride in, too. Asked this week if the Broncos dialed things back for him when he goes in a game, Osweiler said:
"Last I checked we had the same playbook," Osweiler said. "Given each week, the game plan differs and I pride myself on knowing the entire game plan, the entire playbook, and if something’s ever to happen to [Manning], or whatever the case may be and I’m in the game, we’re not going to have to change what we do because I’m the quarterback."
Osweiler did get a little more room to grow as Manning, who battled with sprained ankles for much of the second half of the 2013 season, made a concession in his practice schedule. Manning took some Wednesdays off last season, giving Osweiler extra time with the starting offense.
Osweiler, the youngest quarterback on the draft board in ’12, won’t turn 24 until November. He says Year 3 already feels a bit different than his first two.
"Absolutely, Year 1, it’s almost like the goal is just learning the playbook, and then Year 2 is apply it to the field, eliminate those mistakes you were making in Year 1," Osweiler said. “And same thing goes from Year 2 to Year 3. So from the way practices have gone from the start of training camp, and even back to OTAs, I feel like a completely different quarterback. I feel like I’m playing at a much higher level than I did last year, and especially my rookie year. I have very high goals for myself and very high expectations, and I expect to play well Thursday."