Let’s face it: Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning—one of the most marketable players in the NFL.
The four-time MVP’s marketability rose to even greater heights after returning to the league following a seemingly decade-long hiatus (really just one season in actuality).
Now the on-field general of the Denver Broncos, Manning, 36, has garnered the majority of nationwide attention during the start of NFL training camps (Tim Tebow notwithstanding). The World Wide Leader made it its business to place Manning and the Broncos’ camp front-and-center on Day 1 of its coverage yesterday.
It’s fair to say that we all expected this development.
Obvious Broncos’ story lines aside, what are some of the other noteworthy offensive players on this roster?
Let’s highlight three that might otherwise escape the attention of the masses.
Philip Blake (C)
As adept as Manning is at avoiding sacks with his impeccable footwork and quick release, he still needs men up front to fend off the pass rush.
J.D. Walton manned the center position in 2011. He ranked dead last among all centers according to Pro Football Focus.
Thankfully for Broncos fans, Denver drafted Philip Blake in the fourth-round this past April. Many pundits considered him one of the top centers in his class and worthy of a higher draft pick.
It is up to the former Baylor product to establish a smooth connection with Manning in the early goings and provide some semblance of protection—something that Walton struggled with mightily last season.
Whether he wants to admit his fragility or not, neck fusion surgery is serious business. Blake and the rest of the offensive line must ensure Manning stays off the turf.
Jacob Tamme (TE)
Tamme posted career numbers in 2010 when Manning last played in the National Football League. Without Manning in 2011…not so much.
The two clearly established a connection together in Indianapolis that was severed when No. 18 went down. Expect big production from this duo in 2012 now that they’re reunited.
The tight end position is as important a weapon as any for Manning and his quick-strike offense. He utilizes that offensive target in dynamic ways not rivaled by many in the NFL. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago (2009) when he made an All-Pro out of Dallas Clark.
Tamme will serve as Manning’s go-to guy throughout the season. Do not be surprised if he eclipses his 2010 statistical output.
Demaryius Thomas (WR)
Much of me wanted to include another Broncos receiver on this list.
However, Eric Decker (said receiver) was the leading pass catcher in 2011 and I expect him to compile similar stats in 2012.
The wideout more deserving of inclusion is Demaryius Thomas.
Despite showing periodic moments of his immense talent, Thomas has been largely a bust since being drafted in the first round in 2010.
Mr. Manning will change all of that.
No. 18 has a knack for maximizing the potential even among unheralded late-round draftees in his offensive repertoire (see: Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon).
With players emerging from the first-round talent pool, well, things just get that much better (see: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne).
Manning will elevate Thomas’ production as of yet unseen in his brief career. He’ll produce a stat line the equivalent of what he totaled during the past two seasons now with Manning throwing him the ball.
He’ll instill a tireless work ethic and teach Thomas the requisite nuances of the wide-receiver position to help him become the player he was drafted to be.
The Manning-to-Thomas connection will be something to watch for in 2012.