Commentary

Manning more energized than ever

Originally Published: July 29, 2010
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN.com

Peyton ManningMatthew Emmons/US PresswirePeyton Manning had a monster season for the Indianapolis Colts in 2009: 4,500 passing yards, 33 TDs and a 99.0 QB rating.
Funny how this goes when you're supposed to write about five things you want to learn on your training camp bus tour. There's just so much more to discover. So as I board my bus for my 14-camp tour, here are five questions and a bonus five:

1. Is this the best Indianapolis Colts team Peyton Manning will quarterback?

Sounds funny considering the tradition of teams that lost in the Super Bowl. However, I found Manning more energized than ever when we visited during his recent family passing camp. He thinks the running game will be more physical. He believes WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie will take big steps to join Reggie Wayne among the elite, Dallas Clark will get help at tight end, and the defense will be better. Although the offense might get a few welcome wrinkles, will the retirement of line coach Howard Mudd be a burden?

2. Can the Arizona Cardinals overcome the loss of Kurt Warner, or is it the San Francisco 49ers' time?

For starters, the Cardinals' QB job belongs to Matt Leinart, but coach Ken Whisenhunt's plans to become a more physical running team behind Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. That could play right into the big arm of Derek Anderson. The receiving corps, led by Larry Fitzgerald, is still superior. The offense must control the ball more. Remember that the defense suffered serious free-agent losses (linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle).

3. Is Tim Tebow a trick or a treat for the Denver Broncos?

For some reason, a guy who accomplished so much in college, who loves football and who does all the right things off the field is a polarizing player because he's such good media fodder. Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn have the edge at quarterback, but it's no secret Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has a Tebow package. If Tebow doesn't work out, how much pressure falls on McDaniels?

4. Can the Green Bay Packers trump Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings?

Technically, Favre hasn't come back yet, but the Vikings are loaded with talent. So are the Packers, and QB Aaron Rodgers has quickly developed into one of the game's elite players. The key for the Packers: an improved offensive line and a defense that will be without defensive tackle Johnny Jolly all season because of a suspension.

5. What's the vibe in San Diego?

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said he is prepared to play the first 10 games without disgruntled offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson. OK, but is Philip Rivers prepared to do that? Chances are the contracts will be smoothed over (Jackson will miss the first three games anyway because of a suspension). Another key question: Can rookie first-round pick Ryan Mathews prove that LaDainian Tomlinson's declining rushing numbers were more about LT than about Norv Turner's play calling?

Bonus questions:

  • Will Dez Bryant be the most impactful rookie wide receiver the NFL has seen since Randy Moss and be a catalyst to the Cowboys' breaking a long-running trend? (No team has played in a Super Bowl it hosted.)
  • Will the Chiefs, with the addition of Charlie Weis at offensive coordinator and Romeo Crennel at defensive coordinator, be one of those surprise teams?
  • Has Jason Campbell found the perfect fit with the Oakland Raiders, and if he has, are we talking contender here or even a respectable 8-8?
  • Is Matt Schaub ready to win those two or three extra-tight games to finally push the Houston Texans into a playoff spot?
  • Are the Saints, like the Colts, going to be better in 2010? Once the prolonged Super Bowl celebration was over, you sure heard a lot of good things coming out of the "Who Dat" offseason practices.

    Oh, last question: Who will smell worse when we meet in New Orleans, Adam Schefter or me?

    Bet the bus on me.

    ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen will file reports from all camps and updates on the road via Twitter (@mortreport).