With Peyton Manning as your quarterback, there really is no question of who will be at the top of the depth chart. But one of the bigger questions facing the Broncos franchise is who will take the number two position.
The backup quarterback roster consists of former Chicago Bears backup QB Caleb Hanie, rookie quarterback out of Arizona State University Brock Osweiler and last year’s practice squad QB Adam Weber.
Hanie’s professional resumé has been less than impressive. During his four NFL seasons, he has thrown three touchdowns to nine interceptions. He took the reigns as the Bears starting quarterback after Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury during the 2011 season. In his first start, Hanie threw two touchdowns and three interceptions, and after three abysmal performances, he was quickly replaced with Josh McCown for the final two weeks of the season.
Weber is certainly someone the Broncos will be evaluating. While he remained undrafted in 2011, he still possesses a very impressive collegiate career. At Minnesota, he lit up the Big Ten record books with 11,603 yards of total offense (second all-time in conference history), and he was just the fifth quarterback in Big Ten history to throw for at least 10,000 yards. He may not have a great deal of game day experience in the NFL, but the Broncos saw something promising in Weber, and they extended his contract through 2012. His arm strength, work ethic and willingness to be a team player could make him a viable option as backup quarterback.
Rookie QB Brock Osweiler seems to be an early favorite in the minds of the Broncos’ coaching staff. At the beginning of camp he took limited snaps as he watched Hanie and Weber take snaps as the second- and third-string quarterbacks, respectively. But by the third day of camp he was moved into taking snaps as the second-team quarterback.
Head coach John Fox isn’t ready to commit to a clear number two quarterback just yet.
“I think we pretty much have a One and have a 2A, B and C,” he told BroncoTalk.net. “They’ll sort that out. We’ll see how they play. We put a little bit more stock in game situations so time will tell.”
While all three players bring different experiences and resumés to the playing field, none of them appear to be concrete. I know nothing in the NFL is a sure thing, and no player is a guaranteed star or bust, but with a 36-year-old starting quarterback just coming off of major neck surgery, a confident second stringer would be beneficial.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season with the Indianapolis Colts due to a neck injury he sustained, presumably, during the 2010 season. He underwent three different surgeries during a 19-month period, the last of which was a one-level fusion of the cervical vertebrae. Many doctors and spine specialists say he is at very low risk for re-injury and that his neck may be stronger than ever, but an aging quarterback with a history of injury is still cause for some concern.
The Broncos brought in Manning in March and subsequently cleaned house of most of their existing quarterback squad in exchange for players with limited, questionable NFL careers or no professional experience at all. This was slightly unnerving to me due to the arguably dicey nature of Manning’s durability.
As Manning starts taking hits from the likes of Troy Polamalu and Dont’a Hightower, I certainly hope those surgeons are correct in their analysis. Otherwise, I fear the only way the Broncos will see the Super Bowl is from the glow of their own televisions.