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Awkward situation for Manning’s backup, Broncos

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brock Osweiler’s up-and-down career as the Denver Broncos’ backup quarterback was summed up by two throws to Demaryius Thomas in a five-minute period Sunday.

On the first, he looked for the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver cutting across the middle. The pass was low, off-target and nearly intercepted by backup linebacker Todd Davis.

A few minutes later, the Broncos were in the red zone, and Osweiler threw a perfectly placed strike to Thomas on a post route. The football was just out in front of Thomas, and he didn’t have to slow down to get the football. No quarterback could have thrown it better.

Osweiler has had two days to run the offense during training camp with Peyton Manning given some time off, and consistency has been the primary issue. But there was a marked improvement from his first day running the team to his work Sunday.

“He missed a few plays,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “But he made a lot of plays, too. I just think he’s gaining a little confidence running the football team when it’s his. You can see when he comes out here on those days it’s not a shock. It’s a ‘let’s go.’ I think it’s important for the group, and obviously, it’s important for his career. I thought he did a good job.”

Osweiler’s contract expires this year, so the Broncos have a decision to make: Should they give him an extension to ensure that their four-year investment in him isn’t for naught, or should they let him test the market? If Manning returns for the final year of his contract in 2016, that complicates matters.

Osweiler knows he must focus on the here and now. But the future isn’t far from his mind — and by giving him days like Sunday, it’s not far from the Broncos’ minds, either. No one on the roster has more to prove this preseason — or potentially more to gain.

–An unusually rainy summer for Colorado gave way to benign conditions for training camp, but when the Broncos had their second off day of camp Monday, the skies opened up and delivered a deluge on team headquarters.

By the time the severe thunderstorm had passed, hail and water two inches deep covered the practice fields, two tents set up for fans had blown down and the facility was not fit to host fans for the Tuesday practice.

The team will instead practice in its indoor practice facility, with fans unable to watch. That comes as a setback to the club, which had reported team-record attendance figures at its renovated facility, which now includes a hill that can accommodate up to 6,000 fans.

–Although Montee Ball is listed as the No. 2 running back, ahead of Ronnie Hillman, the race to be the primary backup behind C.J. Anderson appears wide open. Both have taken turns getting some first-team repetitions when Anderson rests, and each has ripped off some big runs in practice.

Hillman, in particular, has shown the most speed when getting to the corner and has been more decisive in his cuts than ever before — a skill that will serve him well in a zone-blocking-based scheme.

“Every time he touches it, he has a chance for a home run,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “He runs with confidence between the tackles.”

Whoever becomes the No. 2 running back, Kubiak expects him to be more of a 1a behind Anderson than a straight-up No. 2. This would mimic how he used Arian Foster and Ben Tate together in Houston.

“I would agree with that,” Kubiak said. “I think C.J.’s having a good camp. (He is) doing his job. But I think after that, I think on any given day, I think it’s been deep as far as watching all of them — not just Ronnie and Montee, I think the other guys have worked extremely well, too. We’re going to play them all. They’re all a little bit different in how they do things and I’ve got to watch them on game day.

“I’ve watched them enough out here. I’ve got to watch them against good people and we’ll see good people (in Seattle) on Friday.”


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