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A seven-game scouting report

WHAT LED TEXANS coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith each to bet his future in Houston on Brock Osweiler? Let's go to the tape.

The biggest thing that stands out is that from the QB's first start in 2015, the game was never too big for him. Even against three eventual playoff teams, Osweiler (right, with owner Bob McNair) seemed to be in command. He was consistently relaxed in getting to the line, surveying the D and making checks. Dropping back, he never fell into the dangerous habit of looking at the pass rush, even though his protection was at times terrible.

One of the big knocks on Osweiler has been that he took too many sacks—20 in his seven starts. And yes, five of his first eight could be attributed to him. Once he sensed the rush, he frantically looked for a place to run, too often into pressure. But late in his second start, Osweiler found his feet and grew confident. Just one of his final 12 sacks were his fault (and that was on the type of late blind-side blitz that can vex even the most experienced QB).

Houston's evaluators likely drooled over Osweiler's film from the final 2:31 of that game against the Pats. Maintaining confidence in Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas, despite the receiver's three earlier drops, Osweiler floated a 36-yard feather into Thomas's hands, splitting the safety and corner. Two plays later an even prettier pass found Emmanuel Sanders streaking down the left sideline for 39 more yards. The finishing touch: a go-ahead TD placed perfectly over the left shoulder of corner Logan Ryan, into Andre Caldwell's waiting arms.

In every game Osweiler made a handful of tight-window throws, and he threw them in a variety of ways: fades, comebacks, skinny posts.... He might even have gone undefeated had Thomas not dropped two end zone balls against the Raiders, and if Vernon Davis hadn't stone-handed a pass late against the Steelers.

Critics who point to Osweiler's less-than-gaudy numbers (10 TDs, six INTs, an 86.4 passer rating) fail to account for the impact of the conservative, run-first offense run by Denver's Gary Kubiak, whose system is also infamously rigid for QBs: audibles and route conversions are barely employed and the route combinations are, in short, archaic—all predescribed hooks and gos and posts.

O'Brien's system in Houston is the complete opposite. The QB has complete control at the line, and receivers can adjust routes based on coverages. Osweiler processes the game speedily, and he's a quick study. (After playing in Adam Gase's more complicated O for two seasons, he caught on quickly with Kubiak.)

Of course, at 25, he still has things to work on. He needs to better sense a pass rush and anticipate coverage. And his throwing motion—pushing the ball instead of snapping it—makes him play shorter than his height. He shouldn't get so many passes batted down.

Osweiler is an ascending QB: He was drafted in round 2 because his immense physical abilities needed development, and while he has since played winning football, he's not yet close to his ceiling. Denver did the hard work. It looks like Houston will reap the benefits.