ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- No. 18 is starting to become acclimated to his new environment.
At the start of last week's OTAs, Head Coach John Fox said the offense showed a bit of rust coming off of the Memorial Day weekend.
Monday morning was a different story, as quarterback Peyton Manning continually hit his targets, often focusing on longer passing routes.
"I think every day you have some point of emphasis, whether it's a screen day one day or play-action one day, goal-line, red-zone," Manning said. "Today it was kind of a deep-ball shot, as they call them, down the field. It's good to do that. We get great looks. It's going to be hard to get a more challenging look than going against some of the guys in our secondary, which is only going to make us better. I wish we could have more time for OTAs, but with the limited practice that we have, we've got to take advantage of it. It's only going to make us better."
The highlight of the morning practice was awfully reminiscent of one of the most exciting plays from last week's 11-on-11 non-contact scrimmage, a long pass from Caleb Hanie that was reeled in inside the 10-yard line by wideout Andre Caldwell.
During a simulated two-minute drill, Manning unleashed a bomb deep down the middle of the field to a streaking Brandon Stokley, who dove headfirst to snag the ball and make the reception in triple coverage just short of pay dirt.
"I will say, when you are throwing deep balls, the idea is to take the shot," Manning said. "It's not the highest-percentage play, but we're going to keep throwing them. As they always say in a game, if you throw five deep balls and you complete one of them, that's always a great thing. You're taking a shot and trying to send a message to the defense to hopefully back them off and that's something we'll continue to work on."
Manning said that he has been pleased with the way his arm feels on the throws that require the most exertion.
"Well, it's an ongoing process for me," Manning said. "It still is part of trying to get comfortable. I still have work to do in my rehab and that's the good thing about these OTAs is you really see where you are on certain plays. Obviously you have to work on it from my standpoint, from a rehab standpoint, and you want to try to work on it from a timing standpoint with your receivers."
As for the process of establishing a rapport with his receivers, Manning is liking what he sees, especially from Stokley and tight end Jacob Tamme, who both played with Manning in Indianapolis.
"I would think that certainly should play some type of a role in the fact that I have thrown just a lot of passes to those guys over the years having played four years with both of those guys," Manning said. "That's a lot of practice reps, offseason reps. Those don't really go away. I believe those do carry over so that's why the more throws I get with guys like Eric (Decker) and D.T. (Demaryius Thomas), the better off you're going to be. I do believe this work does pay off."
"I really didn't know what to expect from Decker," Manning continued. "But he certainly has a great work ethic, which I certainly have a great appreciation for in a young receiver. He's in outstanding condition and he really is a hard worker. I think his size and his speed are pretty rare. He and Demaryius both have that rare combination of 6-3, 6-4 height and over 200 pounds that can still run well. You want to use that to your advantage for sure."
Though the offense is not yet in midseason form, Fox has been very pleased with what he has seen thus far.
"I think our passing game is way further along now than it was at this time a year ago," Fox said. "We're not keeping stats now; we're just installing (our system) and getting guys to their comfort level."
"I think Peyton's doing tremendous," he continued. "Physically, he looks the same to me as he's always looked. Whenever you get a new player out here, it's a new language, and he's making adjustments to that. Just like everybody else, we're hoping he gets better every day."