DENVER -- On a night the Denver Broncos desperately wanted to escape without major injury, they came away from Thursday's preseason finale feeling good about where the depth chart stands at a position where they hope they won’t really have to test it.
But with conventional wisdom typically putting Denver on the brink of disaster should quarterback Peyton Manning be injured, Brock Osweiler closed out the preseason hoping he had alleviated at least some of those concerns, both inside and outside the Broncos' complex, as he trains behind one of the game’s all-time greats.
"As a football player, as a competitor, I always want to play," Osweiler said after Denver's 32-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Invesco Field at Mile High. "It’s hard sitting back and watching someone else, but at least that someone else is probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so it makes it a little bit easier. But this preseason was great, I think from the first game to this game I grew tremendously … and now, shoot, it’s Peyton’s turn to go out there and lead us."
Osweiler finished 7-of-11 passing for 108 yards against the Cardinals and led the team on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession. The Broncos certainly had a low-impact game plan in place, so there weren't many opportunities for Osweiler to test his ability to adjust on the fly against Arizona, but the second-year quarterback said he’s ready to use the entire playbook if forced into action.
"I believe last year I would have been just fine," Osweiler said. "The package we would have run would have been a lot smaller. This year, I am way more comfortable with the total package. I understand our protections, I understand what we are trying to do in the run game and I understand our checks now. Last year I only knew that on a small scale. … If my number gets called, hopefully I can step in and the team won’t skip a beat.
" … Obviously, if you’re building a house and you have a choice between four or 25 tools, you’re probably going to want the 25 tools. With me being more comfortable with the full offense, I think without question we are able to do more things on the field."
The Broncos also got a quality look at the quarterback they took in the seventh round of April’s draft, Zac Dysert. Dysert saw his most significant action of the preseason, playing the entire second half Thursday. Dysert directed two scoring drives, finishing 9-of-20 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown.
"I just tried not to do too much," Dysert said. "I just tried to put the ball in the playmakers’ hands and let them do the work for me."
Dysert might have done enough, however, to force the Broncos to keep three quarterbacks on the final 53-man roster, a move they probably didn’t anticipate having to make as recently as two weeks ago. But with several quarterback-starved teams facing injuries at the position poised to troll the waiver wire this weekend, it could far more difficult to get Dysert through waivers -- which Denver would have to do if it wants to sign him to the practice squad.
And keeping Dysert on the 53-man roster would almost certainly cost the Broncos a player at another position for a quarterback who would not take a snap in a regular-season game if things go as planned.
"It’s going to be nerve-wracking … but I can’t control it and I try not to worry about things I can’t control," Dysert said. " … Like I’ve said, I’ve just wanted to prove to them that I can play."