With the Houston Texans (4-2) playing the Denver Broncos (4-2) on Monday night, it’ll be interesting to watch the game within the game; specifically, it’ll be interesting to see how Brock Osweiler fares against his former teammates.
Who will be more motivated: Osweiler, who will try to show Denver it made a mistake in letting him walk, or the Denver defense, which will try to show Osweiler he made a mistake in walking?
“Honestly, I’ve never been one to focus on the opponent,” former Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think you need to focus internally, and this football team has not played well the last two football games. You got to get back on track. When you’re not playing well, you want to play again. The Broncos need to focus on getting back on track as a team and getting the good energy back. They’ll have Coach Kubiak back. If they go out there and play their game, they’ll justify anything that comes with Brock Osweiler and that whole contract situation.”
Indeed, at this point, Denver, which has lost two straight after a 4-0 start, is just hoping for a win, especially after being held to 29 points combined in its past two games.
What has been the Broncos’ biggest problem in recent weeks?
“It’s hard to hear (this) from a former receiver, but that offense is really based off of the running game,” Smith said. “When we won and we beat up on teams, we would line up and you always got to have one or two running plays that you’ll run no matter what the defense (is). Right now, we need to (identify) what those one or two plays are for this offense. With Trevor Siemian at quarterback, it helps the quarterback when you can have that good running game, get you three or four a pop on the ground, now the play-action passes work, the keeper game works, and this offense is based off of that.”
The running game, however, has struggled in recent weeks. The Broncos haven’t had even a 50-yard rusher since their 34-20 win over the Colts in Week 2.
“They got the skill positions,” Smith said. “All that stuff is great. They got a brand-new offensive line. Those guys are gelling. Offenses take time to gel in the NFL. No matter how good you are at the skill positions, there’s still a timing on offense that’s different on defense. So I believe those guys will come into their own. It’s Week 7 now. After playing together seven regular-season games, you kind of get a good feel of where guys are going to be, what they’re going to do, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and I think they’ll get better tonight.”
Siemian, to his credit, has fared well at quarterback this season. He’s completing 64.9 percent of his passes and has seven touchdowns to just three interceptions. He even threw for four touchdowns in a 29-17 win in Cincinnati in September.
“One of the receivers (raved about Siemian) last year when he was basically the scout team guy,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Dude, this guy throws like Aaron Rodgers.’ I said, ‘Man, do you understand who Aaron Rodgers is? You can’t compare this guy to Aaron Rodgers.’ He said, ‘Just trust me. This guy is going to be a star in this league.’ And I believe that to this day.”
Osweiler, meanwhile, is off to a so-so start in Houston. He’s completed just 59.0 percent of his passes for an average of 233.7 passing yards per game and has eight touchdowns to eight interceptions.
“Brock did well (in Denver last season, but) you got to remember the offense was different,” Smith said. “The offense was a shotgun offense. It wasn’t under center. Brock never took snaps really under center in this offense. Now you see in Houston, they had to switch their offense to fit all those weapons. They got a ton of weapons on that team. The same thing the Broncos’ offense is dealing with, Brock is dealing with there. It’s timing. I’m not knocking his talents or his skills by no means, but . . . the offense we run is better for a guy who can go up under center who doesn’t have to take it in the shotgun all the time.”
Smith is confident that the Broncos can snap their two-game Monday night.
“These guys are ready to get back on the field,” he said.
Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. ET.