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Ten-Point Stance: Opponents say Manning's arm strength not Peyton-esque

by | National NFL Insider
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This has been the narrative involving the arm strength of Peyton Manning: His arm is gaining power all the time. It gets better weekly, and by the end of the season, it will be close to normal, if not totally so.

That's the narrative. Since in many ways what Manning is doing is uncharted territory, the prevailing narrative could easily be accurate. We just don't know and Manning has rarely offered specifics of just how his arm is coping with multiple neck surgeries. There is also no question that Manning is still very good.

But there is an alternative narrative developing in some team circles when it comes to Manning's arm strength. Team and player sources from the franchises Manning has played this season say his arm strength has not improved, but rather, at best, has stabilized.

These sources, who requested anonymity, while saying that Manning is still a great and feared player, also say there is little doubt that Manning's arm is considerably less powerful than generally known.

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One team source claimed that he cataloged numerous Manning throws going back to when he was in college at Tennessee. The source said Manning has always had one of the most accurate deep arms in NFL and college history.

Now, the source explained, film work shows Manning has trouble connecting accurately on deep passes over 30 yards. It's not that he can't do it, or never does. It's that, for now, he can't do it consistently.

One source on a team the Broncos recently played estimated Manning's arm strength at 70-80 percent. Another source on a different team said 80 percent. Another source said 75.

The consistent opinion among the sources who have studied Manning extensively on film is that his arm isn't getting stronger. One source believes the arm strength is even slightly weaker. I find the latter claim to be dubious but what happened in New England this past weekend was indeed interesting.

Manning had only four completions that went more than 20 yards (one was a perfect bomb for 43) but the vast majority of his passes against New England were in the 5-yard range from the line of scrimmage.

One deep throw fluttered like I've rarely seen a Manning pass do. In fact, though I'm sure it's happened, I can't recall ever seeing a Manning pass flutter like that, and I've watched him closely since he came into the league.

"With Peyton's situation, I think they're over-magnified," John Elway, the Broncos general manager, told the media last week, referring to Manning's lack of deep passes. "I think every quarterback throws balls that flutter every game, and I think that there is some over-magnification when they look at Peyton. I do not have any concerns, as it continues to get better week in and week out. The strength continues to get better. As he continues to do his rehab, we'll see that grow."

Something also needs to be made crystal clear. None of the sources talked about Manning with malice. The feelings about Manning are quite the opposite. There is a great deal of respect for him. The sources spoke because they were asked and then they answered. Simple as that.

The same people who wonder about Manning's arm strength also said Elway deserves executive of the year for signing him away from teams that tried after Manning went on his tour this summer (something I agree with).

There's no bitterness here. This is about one thing only (said in the vernacular of the sport): film don't lie.

2. If you think the Arizona Cardinals have lost any confidence following that loss to St. Louis last week ... well, they haven't. Not even close.

One of the better defensive ends in the conference, Calais Campbell, said in an interview with me that the Cardinals are as sure of themselves as ever before.

"People continue to underestimate us, and we're OK with that," Campbell told me. "We're going to show the NFL that we're one of the best teams in football. Keep doubting us and we'll keep proving people wrong."

"The reason we've been able to win and shock people is because we play as a team," Campbell said. "We play together and we play hungry. Now we're mad because we lost and we're even hungrier."

3. This is an idea that could go either really well or really badly. Commissioner Roger Goodell will participate in a town hall style meeting with host Michael Strahan on Oct. 22. This is the interesting part: Audience members will be allowed to ask questions. The meeting will air on SiriusXM.

What Sirius isn't really explaining is if the questions will be screened. If they aren't, that town hall could have some serious fireworks.

4. Terrell Owens as a Jet would work beautifully. Sure it would. No circus atmosphere at all. Very little chance of distractions. Plus Tim Tebow? No, wouldn't be a farce at all. So do it, Jets. Restore belief in your fans that you are not about circuses but football. Because there is no way signing a selfish, team-wrecking, jerk could ever go wrong.

5. One of the biggest reasons why the NFL continues to be so popular is the belief that any team can win any year (except Cleveland). Of the 17 teams this season with a .500 record or better, nine of them won eight or fewer games a season ago, according to the NFL. Those nine teams now have a combined record of 28-15 but finished last year 54-90.

6a. Champ of the week: Alex Karras, who died Wednesday at 77. Was one of the more influential players in NFL history because of what he did on and off the field. Players like Jim Brown and Karras were among the first NFL players to parlay the clout developed on the field into acting and television work.

6b. Chump of the week: The Kansas City fan base for booing a concussed Matt Cassel. Just ridiculous. Boorish, foolish, ugly. Not worthy of a proud franchise with a great history.

6c. Tweet of the week: Owens' plea for the Jets to sign him. Almost sad in a way.

7. Only a matter of time before Randy Moss implodes. He's an afterthought in the San Francisco offense. That will not sit well. Hopefully, the 49ers have good caterers.

8. This will sound strange: Expect Chicago's Jay Cutler to suddenly start playing really well. Like many other teams, the Bears are starting to use more no-huddle to keep defenses off balance, and Cutler seems to be adapting well to it. And the offensive line is playing better.

9. I cannot tell you how many times a scout told me (and continues to) that Andrew Luck is a better running quarterback than Robert Griffin III, and RG3 is a better thrower than Luck.

10. And finally, serious question: Why doesn't the media blast Tim Tebow for showboating? Or signing with talent agencies? Or doing a Vogue spread? The way many in the media would atomize almost any other athlete who has accomplished very little for doing the same?

It's just a question.

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