Denver Broncos fans will be treated to more playing time from Peyton Manning in Week 2 of NFL preseason action as the Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Saturday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. MT.
During the team's final practice in full pads of training camp Saturday, coach John Fox confirmed that Manning and the offensive and defensive starters will play into the second quarter against the Seahawks. That’s welcome news for fans as well as Manning, who appeared rusty in his first outing against the Chicago Bears. Manning was involved in just 12 plays in the opener at Chicago.
Manning's first few throws were shaky, and his first pass was nearly intercepted. Later in the drive, as the Broncos were threatening in the red zone, Manning's final pass of the night was a bit behind fellow 36-year-old veteran Brandon Stokley and was intercepted by Bears safety Major Wright. Manning finished the game 4-of-7 for 44 yards with the pick.
Another area where the Broncos will continue to work is the Manning-to-Demaryius Thomas connection. Thomas is big-bodied receiver and will be the primary target for Manning in Denver.
On the play prior to the interception by Wright, Manning floated a beautiful ball to Thomas on a little fade route at the back of the end zone. The ball was placed perfectly where only Thomas could get it, and Manning's deft touch was a thing of beauty, but Thomas couldn't find the ball, missed the timing and the easy score fell incomplete.
Execution of those routes and that chemistry is something that must improve this week against the Seahawks.
The matchup with Seattle will likely be the best indicator thus far of the progress Manning has made this offseason. While the neck fusion has removed any doubts of re-injury, the question of arm strength recovery still remains unknown. Throughout training camp, Manning has been reluctant to pass it deep in 7-on-7 drills and has focused primarily on short routes or quick hits to streaking tight ends in the middle of the field.
Manning will have an extended period of time to work at full speed with his receivers, offensive line and running backs to move the football and generate drives. Improving crispness in connecting with receivers, delivering the ball out in front and keeping the ball away from defenders should be the focus of Manning’s work Saturday night.
His vision, his quickness of release, the command of the huddle and his quick footwork to work through his reads—all of those aspects of Manning's game are all there. It is now time to execute the game plan and turn those drives into points.
Let's not put everything on Manning, however. While a bit behind him, Stokley had to have the catch, and he needed to bring that pass in. On the play prior, Thomas should have been able to put himself in the right position to make that touchdown reception.
Manning can't do it all on his own; he has to have his fellow teammates step up their game and make the plays everyone expects them to make.
The Seahawks secondary is a young, opportunistic bunch. Both starting cornerbacks, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, had interceptions in the team’s opening preseason matchup with the Tennessee Titans. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at safety are two bright stars in the NFL. The Seahawks defense was in the middle of the pack last season, ranked 15th in passing defense.
This matchup should tell the Broncos and fans how far Manning and co. have come in gelling and anticipating one another's movements.