Updated at: 08/30/2013 4:35 AM
By PAT GRAHAM
(AP) DENVER - The Denver Broncos quarterback directed the offense to near perfection and hit receivers in stride all night.
Only this wasn’t Peyton Manning running the show but his backup and understudy Brock Osweiler. The second-year player out of Arizona State threw for 108 yards in a 32-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night to close out the preseason.
His favorite target? Former Sun Devil teammate Gerell Robinson, of course, who finished with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. A boost of confidence for both, especially Osweiler.
"I am way more comfortable this year than I was last year," Osweiler said. "If my number gets called, hopefully I can step in and the team won’t skip a beat."
5 things we know about the Cardinals from the preseason:
1. CROWDED BACKFIELD: Arizona has five solid running backs and coach Bruce Arians is hoping to keep them all on the roster. Ryan Williams ran nine times for 25 yards and a touchdown on Thursday in his most extensive action since returning last week from a knee injury suffered early in training camp. Rashard Mendenhall was held out of the exhibition finale but led the way with 47 yards on 6 rushes the week before against the San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals others running backs are Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. "They can all play," Arians said.
2. PALMER’S POISE: After struggling at quarterback last season, the Cardinals may have finally found a solution in veteran Carson Palmer. He was solid all preseason, completing 52 percent of his passes. He also threw two TDs and no interceptions.
3. BETTER WITH AGE: Larry Fitzgerald has accomplished a lot in the NFL before his 30th birthday, which arrives on Saturday. He has the most receptions by a player before 30 (764) and second-most yards receiving (10,413). By his standards, Fitzgerald had a down 2012 with 71 catches and a career-low four TDs. An integral part of the Cardinals’ offense, Fitzgerald is starting to develop a rapport with Palmer. He had nine catches for 99 yards in the preseason.
4. MORE PETERSON: The Cardinals are hoping to get defensive back and punt returner Patrick Peterson on the field even more, with possibly more snaps on the offensive side. That could keep opposing coaches up late at night since Peterson’s already a handful as a punter returner and as a cover corner. He had a team-leading seven interceptions last season.
5. MELDING TOGETHER: From coach to quarterback, the Cardinals have plenty of new faces. In all, more than half of the roster wasn’t with Arizona last season. Arians is attempting to blend it all together, especially on offense. "I think we have a very good handle on it," Arians said. "My job now is to streamline it to where there is no thinking involved."
And 5 things we know about the Broncos:
1. MANNING THE MAESTRO: Manning certainly won’t be bashful about calling pass plays this season. Not that he ever has been. The four-time NFL MVP is more comfortable than a season ago when he began his comeback from a series of neck surgeries that affected a nerve in his throwing arm. He’s vowed to play at an even faster tempo, meaning more tosses to targets such as Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and his newest weapon, Wes Welker.
2. UNSETTLED BACKFIELD: Neither Ronnie Hillman nor Montee Ball ran away with the running back competition in training camp. Hillman had a solid preseason, but had fumbling issues. The rookie Ball didn’t exactly shine on pass blocking _ and keeping Manning well protected remains a high priority. That could open the door for veteran Knowshon Moreno, who’s a reliable blocker and ball carrier.
3. VON GONE: For six games, the Broncos must find a way to generate a pass rush without Pro Bowler Von Miller as the talented defensive end/linebacker serves his suspension for violating the NFL’s drug-abuse policy. While Miller is out, Shaun Phillips and Nate Irving will try to pick up the slack. Miller had 18 1/2 sacks last season.
4. SAFETY DANCE: The Broncos have shuffled around a lot of safeties in camp, but Rahim Moore is not one of them. Moore appears to have held on to his starting position, while also putting the memories of last season’s blown coverage in a playoff loss to Baltimore behind him. Vying to play alongside Moore in the secondary is Duke Ihenacho. Mike Adams is in the mix, too.
5. THREE AMIGOS: Decker, Thomas and Welker are trying to be the next installment of the "Three Amigos," a moniker once given to the Broncos trio of Ricky Nattiel, Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson. That version had John Elway throwing to them. This current crop has a pretty good QB, too.
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