What to look for in Manning's Denver debut

August, 9, 2012
Peyton Manning will play his first NFL game in 19 months Thursday when he makes his Denver Broncos debut in the preseason opener at Chicago. Here is a primer.

Why is it important? Manning missed all of last season after having multiple neck procedures. He has looked good in practices, but there is nothing like game action.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiPeyton Manning hasn't played an NFL game in more than a year.
How long should we expect to see Manning? Not very. He will play the normal amount for a starting quarterback in a first preseason game. I expect to see him for one series. If the Broncos go three-and-out, maybe Manning will play a second series. He will play more in the second game and extensively in the third game before likely sitting out the final preseason game.

Will his statistics matter? Nope. It’s all about work. Now if he throws two interceptions, well, maybe it will be an issue. But this is about game repetitions, not fantasy numbers.

Will we see a deep ball? That seems to be a big issue outside the organization. Everyone wants to see Manning air it out. But that’s not really Manning’s game. He throws deep sometimes, but the usage of the deep pass has been limited this camp, although he did throw deep early in the team’s scrimmage Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if Manning showed the Bears -- and the NFL -- he can still throw deep once or twice when needed.

What would be a success? If he gets the offense in a rhythm and Manning has good chemistry with his receivers. Manning’s game is about anticipation and rhythm. That’s what he needs to show in a cameo appearance against the Bears.

What would be a disappointment? If Manning is out of sorts and is out of sync with his receivers. And of course, if he gets hurt, it will be a disaster.

Manning’s thoughts: “Offensively, when we’re in there, we just like to put some kind of execution together. We’d love to get a drive or two going. I’ve always said you love to get a bit of everything in the preseason if you can. You love to get some short-yardage work, some third-down conversions, [and] you get some red zone, [and] goal line. In all four games, if you can get all the situations that we work on out here, that would be ideal. So however long we play, or whatever Coach [John] Fox wants to do, we’re good with. We just need to play well when we’re out there.”

A scout’s view: “I am not real worried about how far he can throw the ball, but I want to see him fit a few passes with zip into tight spots. And I want to see if his pass-catchers are on the same page as No. 18.”

-- ESPN.com's Matt Williamson

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter



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