One of the more interesting things to keep an eye on tomorrow will be the performance of Peyton Manning once he hits the field for the Broncos. Chris Wessling at nfl.com takes an in depth look at the issues surrounding Manning’s age and arm strength here.
Doubts about Mannings arm strength have run rampant around the NFL. Albert Breer quoted a number of scouts and executives in his article on the same topic in January:
“From an AFC executive: ‘Saw a lack of velocity, declining arm strength. No juice or zip on throws. Shelf life.’
“One NFC scout said: ‘It’s sad watching him, even more sad how Denver treated one of the greatest. Arm looks shot, sad seeing him look like that, knowing how big a competitor he is.’
“An AFC scout: ‘Missed deep ball, routine throws were getting knocked down because he couldn’t drive the ball, timing was off. Never looked like he could get in a routine. He couldn’t dictate the game like normal because he just couldn’t make the throws that needed to be made.’
“And an NFC exec: ‘Terrible overthrows and incompletions. He may be hurt.'”
Lest you think only those who won’t put their name to the reports are saying these things, Wessling quotes NFL media analyst Brian Balldinger:
“‘When you watch some of these throws, you can’t believe it could possibly be the same guy,’ Baldinger said. ‘… You just (wonder) is it the arm, is it the new offense, is he thinking too much, is that possible? … those plays are lay-ups for Peyton Manning.'”
In fairness, some NFL veterans, including Manning’s own wide receivers, continue to defend Manning as a quarterback with plenty of zip on the ball. But recent video of the Broncos preseason games tells a different story. Manning can no longer drive the ball down the field and when he’s forced to make some of the tougher NFL throws, you could go get a beer from the fridge and come back and the ball still might not be there, yet.
OK. I could be exaggerating. Maybe.
To me the question is no longer about Manning’s arm. Anyone can see the difference now. The question is whether veteran savvy from one of the most intelligent and most prepared quarterbacks to ever play the game can compensate. Those who look at quarterbacks and favor intelligence over physical prowess will be rooting for Manning to overcome these deficiencies. But Manning is likely to severely test that tendency in anyone who watches.