After four neck surgeries and sitting out the entire 2011 season it would’ve been ridiculous to expect Peyton Manning to look like his old self as soon as he took over the Denver Broncos offence.
After two preseason games everyone would be advised to perhaps temper that excitement.
Game 1 versus Chicago Bears: 4-for-7, 44 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks
Game 2 versus Seattle Seahawks: 16-for-23, 177 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 0 sacks
Marked improvements as far as raw numbers go after getting more playing time against Seattle, but there are clear signs Manning is not entirely back to his old self.
Issues vs. Bears: lucky completion to tight end Jacob Tamme that should’ve been intercepted (1:02), forcing it into a heavily-covered Brandon Stokley and getting picked off in the red zone (2:03):
Issues vs. Seahawks: throws short pass too low resulting in a tip from a defensive lineman and an interception (0:17), completely over throws wideout Eric Decker in the middle of four Seattle defensive backs for another interception (1:05):
The biggest caveat here is that he’s learning a new system and it’s still the preseason. Peyton’s injuries aside, any guy in his situation would still be struggling and figuring out the kinks. That’s a given.
The concern, however, is that he’s doing some very un-Manning like things. Namely, two red zone interceptions (only threw one red zone INT between 2009 and 2010, the last two seasons he played), not throwing the ball high enough to avoid getting tipped, and surprisingly struggling to read defenses and throwing balls into heavy coverage.
Luckily for Peyton and the Broncos his offensive line has been phenomenal, keeping him upright and giving him ample time to find open receivers down the field. Another encouraging sign is how much zip Manning has on his throws.
Regardless, signs of problems, however minor they may be, are there and we shouldn’t expect Peyton to immediately re-insert himself in the “Best NFL QBs” conversation right away.