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Denver Broncos fans will get their third chance to see Peyton Manning during a home preseason game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. And you better believe the critics will be out in full force on this one.
After last weekend’s two-interception performance against the Seattle Seahawks during his home debut in Denver, Manning wasn’t entirely pleased with his effort. “A quarterback signs the check on every ball that he throws,” Manning said after the game. In the past two preseason games, the Broncos’ starting offense has four turnovers (three of which are from Manning) and a slew of drives that have ended with questionable decisions. That’s not entirely an indictment of the 36-year-old quarterback as he works his way back from a neck injury. It’s just part of the slow progress you have to figure Manning has to make while he prepares for his first professional season outside Indianapolis.
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Still, Manning has struggled to throw deep passes to his right—a trend that lots of people have noted in the past week. Manning, too, hasn’t thrown the tight passes that had been his trademark before he underwent multiple surgeries that forced him to miss the 2011-2012 season. So what’s wrong?
Time will tell, but the Broncos can start addressing other issues now. As in, get Manning some help so he doesn’t have to shoulder the whole load. Which bring us to Maurice Jones-Drew—the Jacksonville Jaguars running back and the National Football League’s leading rusher last season—who is holding out for a better contract and has said that he’s open to a trade out of Florida. Should the Broncos pick him up? Critics of a Broncos-Jaguars trade note that Jones-Drew is 27 years old and he has nearly 1,500 regular-season rushing attempts on his resume already. Obviously, that’s a punishing workload. Right now, though, that shouldn’t matter.
Manning’s career might span another three years, a brief window in which the Broncos need to stockpile all the help it can—even if that means adding an aging, star running back with some tread off the tires. Remember John Elway and Terrell Davis? Would fans be willing to see their favorite team fork over two or three high draft picks and go for Jones-Drew—a bowling ball of a runner whose 4.7 yards per carry last year was among the league’s best—even if that meant trading some future success for a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl title? In a championship-starved city like Denver—the Colorado Rapids have the last major title—that bargain makes sense. Folks remember Super Bowls, not 10-6 records that end in the playoffs’ second round.
Peyton Manning undoubtedly is going to do his best to figure out his issues. Fans should hope that the Broncos’ front office is doing the same with the rest of the team.