Denver Broncos Helping Peyton Manning Hit His Stride
Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos in high gear nearly midway through the season. Despite missing the entire 2011 season, and having to start fresh with a brand new team and offense, Manning looks like every bit of his former self, and is showing virtually no signs of wear, even at 37 years old.
To cap it all off, he's been named the October AFC Player of the Month, after throwing 951 yards and garnering an incredible 126.7 passer rating since October 1st.
Thus, if there are still lingering questions about Manning's ability to compete and throw the football, there's little reason for them to exist.
While it has always been clear that Manning improves the players around him (as evidenced by the Indianapolis Colts of last year), he's had a lot of help this season from Broncos players and staff alike.The team is coming together, starting to mesh and building chemistry as a whole. With the most difficult part of their schedule almost completely behind them, they have a real shot at storming the AFC in the second half of the season.
As Manning and the Broncos begin to hit their stride, they're truly better than their 4-3 record would indicate. That improvement is due largely in part to the supporting cast that John Elway has established around his future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Here are a few Broncos that Manning should probably take to dinner before the end of this week:
Mike McCoy's offense has quietly settled in at number three in the league in terms of yardage, with over 405 yards per game through week eight. This is largely due to the expertise and play calling of McCoy, in conjunction with Manning's successful air attack.
Credit McCoy for making an excellent transition from the Tim Tebow-style offense to the completely opposite Manning scheme. He's made a seamless switch, and Manning owes a lot of his success to that fact.
Brandon Stokley is not only a familiar face from Manning's days as a Colt, but also an extremely reliable and effective slot receiver.
Manning has targeted Stokley 26 times so far this year, and Stokley has responded by hauling in 21 of those passes, three of which converted for touchdowns. As a high percentage option, Stokley has provided a cushion for Manning and his primary two targets: Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas.
Stokley's numbers aren't staggering, but his presence has clearly benefited Manning's confidence in a new offense.
Willis McGahee is on pace to meet and possibly eclipse his rushing totals from 2011, which is remarkable considering how much less of a running team the Broncos have become this year.
Though perhaps even more valuable to Manning has been McGahee's ability to provide blocking in the backfield, something for which the rest of Denver's crowded backfield isn't as well equipped.
As Manning's top wide receiver both in terms of the depth chart and total yardage, Demaryius Thomas has hauled in a team high 39 catches this season and has been a huge help to the overall success of the Broncos offense.
Thomas is coming into his own now that he's playing in a pass-first offense, and his value to Manning as a number one receiver can't be overstated.
There has been an air of chemistry and comfort between Manning and Eric Decker this year, and it has shown on the final score-sheets. To this point, in the season, Decker has hauled in a team high five touchdowns and has been targeted 59 times, also a team high.
What's more is that Decker seems to be emerging as Manning's go-to guy, and has looked to be on the same page with his quarterback more so than anyone else on the roster.
Manning owes at least a couple wins to Decker's clutch performances, and it's quite likely that we'll see history repeat itself a few more times before this season meets its end.