DAVIE — The Dolphins didn’t bring beleaguered quarterback Brock Osweiler on as a favor, or to be merely a “camp arm.” There is belief in the organization that they can salvage a player who’s been discarded by Houston, Cleveland and Denver in the last two years, and they’re already seeing some strides.
Osweiler is just 27 and has made 25 starts, leaving room to be optimistic that he’s not fully formed as a quarterback yet. The first step for Miami has been to rework his form.
“We’re doing some things mechanically with him to kind of make everything consistent, which he’s doing a really good job,” quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree said. “I think he’s throwing the ball really well and he’s really fun to be around. It’s a good that we have right now, that we’re working with this offseason.”
If the Dolphins can turn him into a viable backup, it’ll be an impressive accomplishment.
Osweiler overlapped with coach Adam Gase in Denver from 2012 through ’14 and filled in extensively for Peyton Manning in the 2015 season. He posted an 86.4 passer rating and had 10 touchdowns against six interceptions, and it didn’t hurt that the Broncos went 5-2 in his starts.
That run earned him a four-year, $72 million contract with the Texans, but he was a disaster in his lone season with them. After watching Osweiler through more interceptions than touchdowns, complete under 60 percent of his passes and put up a passer rating in the low 70s (even 2017 Jay Cutler cracked 80, for comparison), Houston gave up a second-round pick just to get Cleveland to take the contract.
The Browns hoped Osweiler would give them something as a backup, but ultimately cut him before the season began. He returned to Denver and had five touchdowns, five interceptions and a 72.5 passer rating in six games (four starts).
He lingered on the free agent market long enough for the Dolphins to consider adding him to a quarterback corps headlined by Ryan Tannehill and featuring David Fales as the likely backup.
To Osweiler’s credit, he’s shown humility and been realistic about where he’s at in his career at this point. Battling Fales for the backup job wasn’t beneath him.
“I probably took longer than everybody else,” Gase said. “When we started the free agency process, guys were talking about the fact that, ‘He’s 27-years-old. He’s played for you before and you were part of the guys that drafted him. You know him well. He wants to be here.’ They were almost selling me. I really had to go through things and just make sure that he was good getting back with me and understanding the situation we were in and kind of what he was going to be competing for.
“Hearing him and where he was mentally and what he wanted to accomplish and how he kind of wanted to get his career rolling again, after we had that conversation and we got him in the building, everybody really liked him. I felt good about it. We ended up making that move and ever since then, I’m seeing the same guy that I saw in his younger years.”
Hardegree worked with Osweiler in Denver, too. He was an offensive quality control assistant when Gase was there in 2014, went on to the Bears as one of Gase’s assistants in 2015 and got hired as the Dolphins quarterbacks coach in 2016.
What he’s seen right away from Osweiler is a good grasp of Gase’s offense and, equally important, an ability to make sure everyone else knows how the plays are supposed to work.
“He’s really strong with it,” Hardegree said. “He understands what we’re looking for. He gets the ball out of his hands and he’s a good communicator as far as for a coach too. He’ll come right back to you and say, ‘I should’ve done this,’ or ‘What do you think about this?’ He wants to learn on every play and you love that as a coach.”
Tannehill is the unquestioned starter, and the Dolphins did not draft a quarterback this year. Fales, whose history with Gase goes back to Chicago, played some due to injuries last season. Gase’s comments about him have hinted that he’s the man to beat for the No. 2 job.
Osweiler will get his shot, but also must compete with New York Jets castoff Bryce Petty. Petty was a fourth-round pick in 2015 and has 10 career NFL appearances. He struggled tremendously for the Jets (53.1 percent completions, four touchdowns, 10 interceptions) and was waived after they drafted Sam Darnold.
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