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Tale of the Tape: Brock Osweiler struggles in his first start of the season

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Brock Osweiler received the starting nod over Trevor Siemian against the Eagles, but the results weren’t much better. What happened?

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Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagle Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

As much as Bronco fans (and players and coaches) would like to forget last week, there’s some learnings that we can glean from looking at the film.

This was our first look at Brock Osweiler in a Bronco uniform since 2015, and quarterback play has been the theme of 90% of the discussions this year, so I definitely wanted to give Broncos Country a closer look at Brock’s first start of the season.

Setting the Stage

Going into this game, we all talked about how this is far from the ideal environment to have a first start of the year as a QB: on the road, against a ferocious pass rush, and a team who has only lost one game all year.

Turns out, we were right. The Philadelphia Eagles are the real deal on defense, and their pass rush is reminiscent of Denver’s 2015 squad with their ability to get quick interior pressure, courtesy of Fletcher Cox, as well as getting pressure with only a 4-man rush.

In fact, the Eagles as a team have a combined 226 pressures, “which is 53 more than any other defense”, according to Pro Football Focus.

I know that the narrative all year has been that the line hasn’t given Denver’s quarterbacks any help; but this game, that was absolutely true, even more so than it has been in previous games.

Through the first 8 weeks, Denver’s offensive line had averaged 13 pressures given up a game, with 16 being the most they had given up in a single game. In week 9, Denver gave up 22 total pressures, 46% more than their previous season high, and almost 75% more than their season average.

So if you think Trevor Siemian has been under duress, that's nothing compared to what Osweiler had to deal with last week.

I don’t say all that to excuse Brock Osweiler’s play, as he has plenty to clean up and showed questionable decision-making, but it sure helps put the performance in context.

I see week 9 against Philadelphia as a very similar game to the Paxton Lynch’s first start in Atlanta last year, nearly impossible to fully evaluate the quarterback due to the amount of pressure the offensive line was giving up.

But we’ll try anyway!

The Good

Play 1

Denver clearly planned to give their line some extra help. This is the first play of the game, and Denver comes out in heavy personnel, sending two receivers out in a pattern.

CJ is actually going to bail out of the run fake to pick up a blitzer across the formation, which is a savvy move on his part.

After the run fake, Janovich attacks the linebacker as if he was still blocking for the run, and it is within one yard of the line of scrimmage so it is legal. This clears up the throwing lane for Brock to hit DT on an in-cut.

It’s fitting that the first play of the game went this way, since it pretty much characterized the whole game. CJ Anderson, Garcia, and Leary all get absolutely destroyed in pass protection. You can see above, CJ is on his backside, Garcia is being driven back, and Leary is about to hit the turf.

The 25 yard line is the original line of scrimmage. Garcia and Leary are being driven back to the 20.

Great play by Brock here to hang in against tough pressure and deliver the ball to Thomas for the first down.

Play 2

This one is good play design by Mike McCoy as Cody Latimer is going to break across the field out of a bunch set.

Osweiler does a nice job side stepping pressure here and has two options open downfield. He can take Derby on the shallow crosser, or Latimer deep. He chooses the bigger play and makes a tough throw, with Latimer making a great contested catch.

The Bad

Play 3

The previous two plays were some early positives when the offense was moving the ball nicely, and the wheels hadn’t yet come off. These next two plays highlight questionable decision-making, which has plagued Denver’s quarterbacks all year.

It’s 3rd and 17, and Denver is going to set up a screen pass on the left with Paradis and Garcia releasing.

The Eagles are going to send a delayed blitz from the middle linebacker around the backside A-gap.

This play is one I have watched over and over and what I keep coming back to, is that Brock doesn’t seem to know the playcall here. He is going to set his feet and wind up to throw the ball to Sanders on the backside of the play, before the pressure from the blitz gets home, and before the screen is fully set up.

Above is what the play should have looked like, had it been fully setup and executed. Look at the amount of grass in front of Jamaal Charles. If this is properly executed, this is likely a touchdown.

It seems like every week I sit down with the film, I see 3 or 4 potential touchdowns that are being missed by our offense. For those down on Mike McCoy for playcalling, I’d suggest direct your ire towards the players or coaches not coaching the execution piece of these plays, because McCoy is scheming some very good plays from week to week that have potential to score, they are just not happening.

Now some on Twitter have argued that Brock was merely throwing to Sanders due to the pressure being so fast that he wouldn’t have had time to come back to the screen, since with a screen the quarterback typically will start looking backside, then come back to throw the screen.

I just don’t see that here, because if Brock had intended to come back and throw the screen, he would’ve faded back and at least attempted it. Screens are supposed to combat pressure and blitzes. You don’t throw somewhere else because you start to feel pressure. You’re supposed to feel pressure on a screen because the linemen are releasing.

I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself, but it seems to me that the rest of the offense was running a screen, and Brock, being in his first start, was running a different play.

Play 4

I know I just got done praising Mike McCoy, but this is one play that I’d like to see him show some creativity on.

Very similar concept as the first play of the game. The issue is, Denver runs this play a lot. Mainly, because it is effective, but also because it’s an easy read for the QB (or should be).

However, they have run it so often, that defenses are beginning to key on it, as the corner does here.

Watch the corners feet. He is already driving towards the throw as soon as DT starts his break.

Once the corner has established position like this, Brock needs to come off this read, or throw this away. He has no business trying this throw.

Here’s the angle from Brock’s view.

Very poor decision to release the ball. Brock needs to throw this one away and live to fight another down. This was on first down.

Coming back to the play design, I would love to see McCoy setup a double move here in the future with defenses keying on this play. If the receiver fakes a step inside, and heads up field, there is potential for a huge play.

We’ll see if Denver tries anything like that against New England, who is sure to be prepared for this play.

The Hopeful

Play 5

I said earlier that there are often several plays to be had throughout the game, but the offense just isn’t finding them.

This is one of those.

Philadelphia is in a cover-6 look which is a mix of cover-3 principles on the wide side of the field, and cover-2 on the short side.

This means, there is a hole in between the corner in the flat zone, and the safety over the top. This is a classic way to stress and beat cover-2 concepts, by attacking that area.

Sanders is going to run a fly route right into that area, and come wide open.

However, by the time Brock comes over to that read, pressure is on him and he is sacked.

What’s encouraging though, especially if you’ve followed my breakdowns of Trevor Siemian, is that Brock is going through his progressions, something that Trevor rarely, if ever, did.

You can see him scanning the field here and going to his different reads, eventually coming to Sanders, and just not able to get the pass off before the pressure gets home, as Fletcher Cox was absolutely working over Ronald Leary.

It’s a little sad that I’m taking comfort in the fact that a quarterback is doing a basic thing a quarterback should do, but Trevor Siemian just simply wasn’t doing this consistently, if at all.

Read 1

Read 2

Read 3.

Closing thoughts

While Brock clearly struggled last week, and the quarterback situation is still very much in flux, I saw Osweiler as an improvement over what we’ve seen from Siemian so far this year.

With the amount of pressure Brock was under, it’s a miracle he finished the game, or was able to move the ball at all.

Again, there is plenty to clean up from Osweiler, and he showed very questionable decision-making at times, but the fact that he is going through his reads and not locking on pre-snap is huge compared to what Denver was previously experiencing.

We’ll see what he can do against the Patriots this Sunday, and if the offense is finally able to hit on one of the big plays that they’ve been missing up to this point.