Peyton Manning was arguably the biggest free-agent pickup this offseason, and when the Denver Broncos landed him it changed the culture of the team. Manning will start his first preseason game as a member of the Broncos Thursday night, and the following is a breakdown of what to expect.
SI.com's Peter King claims the four-time MVP has said that he doesn't yet feel 100 percent. That means we probably won't see a whole lot of Manning against the Bears. I'd be surprised if he lasts into the second quarter, and there is a good chance he'll see just one series.
Also, with his neck still bothering him, that means Eric Decker is likely to be his top target, not deep threat Demaryius Thomas. I just don't expect to see Manning load up and throw deep at any point since he's still not 100 percent.
While Manning is a tough competitor, he's also a realist. He'll take it easy in his first game back. After all, he hasn't taken a meaningful snap since January 8, 2011. That's an awfully long time. Just seeing him handle snaps from center and running the offense should be enough to consider this first game a success.
If we see Manning running the team's offense capably and comfortably, then we'll be able to chalk this up as a positive for the Broncos and a step in the right direction for Manning.
I think Manning will come out and look solid in his return to the game. He has been working out tirelessly and throughout the offseason, we've heard reports that his arm strength had returned. While we won't see much of him on Thursday night, I expect him to be solid and look comfortable.