Hello from Chicago, where we’re set to take in tonight’s Bears/Broncos preseason game. You can tell me they don’t count all you want (they don’t), but I’m still pretty psyched. Can’t go wrong with watching Broncos QB Peyton Manning’s return.
So, what will you see tonight at Soldier Field?
Well, as our buddy Albert Breer reported, essentially one or two series from Manning. If they score in 10 plays or whatever, he’ll be out. And if it’s time for the starting offensive line to come out, don’t expect Manning out there with the backups.
Still, it’s the most football he’s played in a long, long time. That Wild Card loss to the Jets in 2010 was his last snap, an incomplete pass to Blair White with 1:02 seconds left before the Jets won it.
Now, after missing a season, Manning returns. As John Elway, Broncos executive, told me in Lake Tahoe last month, the questions will begin to cease when we all see Manning play. He’ll get hit, he’ll throw deep, he’ll throw short, he’ll make decisions. He may not be 100 percent himself, but whatever he is, it’ll all be out there.
Oh, and you’ll see some of this live on NFL Network, which is pretty cool.
“Everybody’s going to see it when we finally get going,” Elway told me last month. “He looked great in OTAs and the minicamps. But until people understand that he can take a hit and watch him play the game, those questions are not going to go away.”
The word is the neck is stronger than it was, so maybe getting hit isn’t a big deal. But you’d like to see it. The problem (if you want to call it that) is that Manning never gets hit. I explored this topic a couple years ago with his old college coach David Cutcliffe. So, whether Manning actually takes a hit tonight is up in the air.
So, he’ll get his feet wet, begin working with his receivers behind his offensive line, and then they’ll yank him from the field, no harm, no foul. My only real question, I guess, is whether he’ll throw deep. How well can he do it. We shall see.
Oh, as for the Bears?
One, we don’t know if QB Jay Cutler will play, considering he just became a father. But assuming he does, it’ll be intriguing to see the reuniting of Cutler and Brandon Marshall and the unveiling of the balanced, explosive Bears offense. It’ll also be interesting to see how much they miss LB Brian Urlacher, who is out. My guess is, a lot.
So… yeah. I’m pumped. As if you couldn’t tell…