When you're a 36-year-old playing the quarterback position, it can be expected that you won't have the same zip on the ball that you did when you were in your 20's. But in the case of Peyton Manning, the arm strength seems to be a problem through three weeks of his comeback season.
The Denver Broncos are at 1-2 after their first two games, which is pretty solid considering their first three games have come against the still undefeated Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, arguably the class of their divisions.
Denver had a chance to win both games against those two, and that goes to show you that Manning has had more impact in his three weeks with the team than anyone could have anticipated. While 1-2 isn't by any standards a strong start, they could easily be 3-0, too.
For a point of reference, look at the way the San Diego Chargers, a team Denver will play twice this season, fared against Atlanta.
But this Denver offense is based solely around Manning, and what he does with the football will determine how far they can go in the AFC this season.
If you look at their first three games, Manning has been exceptional on some drives, and in stark contrast, horrible on others. The first half against the Falcons vs. the second on the same night is evidence of that fact.
It also just doesn't seem like Peyton has the same velocity he did when he was in Indianapolis. Some of his throws on stop routes and ones he has to make across the field are getting there and are out of his hand on time, but arrive so late it doesn't give the receiver time to do anything else.
Ron Jaworski pointed it out on ESPN's SportsCenter early Monday morning, noting that the ball just didn't have the normal "zip" we've become spoiled by seeing in a Manning game.
This offense has all the same components that he's been successful with in the past. Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme are old teammates. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker fill the roles of deep threat and possession guy nicely, and Willis McGahee is back who isn't going to fumble while finding cheap yards.
But Peyton is the one making the checks, engineering the route combinations and making those reads. On his 40-yard touchdown pass to Stokley against the Texans, I saw two red flags: How the ball hovered in the air and that Thomas was streaking down the sideline uncovered after the corner was sitting still.
Even on the touchdown to Joel Dreesen in the fourth quarter, Manning tried to zip a pass in to Decker before the defense could close, but lucked out on a tip-drill that found his man's hands.
Simply put, Manning has a lot of work to do to get this offense where it needs to be. Even so, they've had some good success so far, and scoring 25 points a game will keep you in it against almost every team in the league.
His reads will get better, the receivers will go exactly where he wants and this offense will click at some point this year. But to be Super Bowl champs, which is why Manning signed on in Denver, they need more than that.
Right now, his arm strength is holding them back a little bit. Time will tell if the other factors, like his brilliant football mind and recognized ability to work with receivers, trumps that as the season progresses.
Granted, this is a process for Manning. He's coming off multiple neck surgeries, a year out of the game entirely and meshing with new wideouts and coaching staff.
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