Peyton Manning has declined at a rapid pace over the last year.
In the second half of last season, Manning started to slow down, with some wondering whether it was permanent or just a slump caused by injury.
Through five weeks, Manning hasn’t improved much, and it looks like retirement is imminent.
And while the Broncos are 5-0, carried by one of the NFL’s best defences, there’s a simple cause for concern that Manning may continue to regress.
USA Today’s Tom Pelissero spoke to a league executive who noted that with colder weather on the way, things may get worse for Peyton:
“He didn’t look the same,” the league executive said of Manning’s performance this season. “Their vertical pass game has been kind of nonexistent. You’ve just got to take away the dink-and-dunk and stop the run. He can’t push it downfield like a lot of guys. And when the weather gets bad, it’s only going to get worse.”
While this seems obvious, it’s worth noting as Manning is struggling already. Manning’s completion rates, touchdowns rates, and yards per completion are all lower than any point in his time in Denver, while his interception and sack rates are all up. As the league executive notes, Manning’s arm strength has been zapped after neck surgeries, and as a result, the Broncos pass offence are a lot of short gains instead of deep, long passes.
By the time the colder months roll around, not only will Manning have a harder time getting warmed up and dealing with the conditions, he’ll also have more wear-and-tear on his arm from playing more games.
What could benefit the Broncos is a fairly easy schedule after their Week 7 bye week. After their bye, the Broncos only have three games against teams that currently rank in the top half of the league in pass defence.
Additionally, the Broncos are still adjusting to a new offence under head coach Gary Kubiak, and they have been tinkering with it to put Manning in more shotgun and pistol formations. They have a young, unfamiliar offensive line, too, which is affecting a run offence that ranks 31st in the league.
This doesn’t spell the end of Manning’s season — he still reads the field well, can make the occasional deep throw if he’s got time and momentum, and there will be less pressure on him when/if the run game gets going and his blockers get more experience.
However, given the miles on Manning, his age, and his lack of arm strength from those neck surgeries, cold weather — especially in Denver — could become a scary factor for an already-struggling offence.
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