Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws during the team's stadium scrimmage on Saturday, August 4th, 2012. (BroncoTalk.net photo/Kyle Montgomery)
Peyton Manning will take his first snap against a pass rush in over 19 months and his first with the Denver Broncos as the Broncos face the Chicago Bears in each team’s 2012 preseason opener. Manning and the starters are expected to play one or two series during the exhibition game, while backup units will play three quarters or more.
Manning’s neck won’t be the only thing being tested; the reunion of former Broncos stars Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will debut to a sold out crowd at Soldier Field Thursday night. Furthermore, a suite of backups, rookies, and players on each team’s respective roster bubble will start the four-game competition for their NFL lives Thursday night.
“It’s serious business out there on Thursday,” Peyton Manning said. “There’s jobs being competed for, there’s jobs that people are trying to keep. That’s where all of us have something to play for. Sure, you want to win the game, but everybody’s competing, trying to do their jobs well.”
When: Thursday, August 9, 2012. 6:30 p.m. MT
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
Watch: KTDV Channel 20 Denver, more
Listen: 850 AM KOA Denver, more
Here’s what to expect and look for as each unit takes the field.
PEYTON MANNING AND THE FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Peyton Manning recently said he is eager to undergo what every Broncos fan and coach will cringe at seeing — that first big hit. That will, of course, be the most watched aspect of Thursday’s game: how will Peyton Manning and that four-times-surgically-repaired neck react should the future Hall of Famer get zinged? The Bears will dial up the heat — will the Broncos’ offensive line, led by Ryan Clady, be able to keep him upright?
“You don’t play the game to hurt anyone, but it’s a physical game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Our pass rushers want to get to the quarterback, whoever he is.”
Look for Manning to take around 10 to 12 snaps, which will give the signal caller around a half dozen pass attempts. Who will his favorite target be — Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, or someone else? How will the Broncos utilize their talented tight end tandem of Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme?
Not expected to play is right guard Chris Kuper, with Manny Ramirez getting the nod at starting right guard. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, recently cleared from a concussion, may not play either, leaving his spot for Chris Clark. For the Bears, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will sit. Strong side linebacker Nick Roach will move to Mike, with Geno Hayes taking Roach’s Sam spot.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
This May 23, 2012 file photo shows Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, left, talking with wide receiver Brandon Marshall during an NFL football organized team activity, in Lake Forest, Ill. An explosive tandem in Denver, Cutler and Marshall are reunited with the Bears. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The last thing the Broncos want is for Cutler and Marshall to get into the type of rhythm that saw them break records during their three seasons together in Denver. Former teammates Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil will now try to do what they did for years in practice: make sure that rhythm doesn’t happen.
The most interesting development on the Broncos’ first team is the emergence of Jason Hunter, who has usurped Robert Ayers as starting defensive end. Is it a legitimate move by Jack Del Rio and the Broncos, or are they just trying to light a fire under Ayers’ ass? We’ll be watching Hunter closely.
Linebackers and safeties will also be worth scouting, particularly Wesley Woodyard, Mike Adams, and Rahim Moore.