Manning has made all of the Broncos better

Manning has made all of the Broncos better

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) John Elway insisted that every one of the Denver Broncos was better the second Peyton Manning put his signature on that nearly $100 million contract last spring.

Indeed, all have prospered from the arrival of the meticulous quarterback whose work ethic generated, as coach John Fox also predicted, a lifting of all boats.

Teammates on both sides of the ball are better. So are the coaches. Heck, even the team's ticket sellers and concessionaries have upped their games.

While Manning was turning what began as a season of mystery into one of magnificence, several of his cohorts enjoyed breakout or bounce-back years as the Broncos (13-3) thundered into the playoffs as the AFC's top seed and winners of 11 straight.

Not since Elway was leading comebacks on the football field instead of from the front office have the Broncos been the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl like they are now.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley suggests we call it, ``The Manning Effect.''

Manning sets his standards so high that ``it just makes the players work harder and want to do better,'' said Stokley, who traded in retirement for a reunion with the four-time MVP. ``With Peyton, everything has to be so precise, detail-oriented, it just rubs off on everybody else.''

Players see the league's most decorated quarterback working as though he's on the bubble to even make the team, and they take heed.

``I think when you have someone of his stature pushing himself to the ultimate level that it makes everyone push themselves to that level, too,'' said Denver tight end Jacob Tamme, who also played with Manning in Indianapolis. ``The fact he's had the success he's had but still works so hard still at this point, I think shows why he's had the success that he's had in the first place.''

Young receivers (Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas) and cornerbacks (Chris Harris, Tony Carter) blossomed under Manning's tutelage. Tailback Knowshon Moreno revived his career. Guard Zane Beadles broke through in his third season and linebacker Wesley Woodyard did so in his fifth. Von Miller, last year's top defensive rookie, became a bona fide superstar, and several veterans such as Stokley looked young again.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the architect of the hybrid offense Manning ran so adroitly in putting up numbers that surpassed those from all four of his MVP seasons, is such a hot head coaching candidate that he's holding his very own jobs fair this weekend in Denver, meeting with one team after another.

Manning helped them all do their jobs better over the last 10 months.

It all began in the spring on local high school football fields with receivers working hard at not rounding off their routes lest they get an earful from No. 18 and then at team headquarters with cornerbacks picking Manning's brain to figure out how he was picking them apart.

It grew fast from there, the Broncos getting better and bolder by the week as the 36-year-old quarterback put to rest any lingering doubts about his health or age.

The Broncos' offense rose from 23rd in the league last season to fourth, and Denver's defense jumped from 20th to second. They scored 481 points a year after scoring 309. And their defense allowed 289 a year after yielding 390.

``Well, it makes you grow up faster because, for one, he's not going to let you get away with constant mistakes,'' Champ Bailey said. ``Maybe one here, one over there, but the same mistakes over and over, he doesn't want you in there. And that's the same way on defense. You make too many mistakes, you're not going to play.''

The ones that did play sure did well.

About two dozen players on the Broncos' 53-man roster put up their best statistical seasons in 2012. Others had the best performances in years.

``I'd say on both sides of the balls and special teams, there's guys that have been playing some of their best football,'' Decker said. ``Offensively, as skill players, having Peyton Manning has helped tremendously, helped the line tremendously, and defensively, with the scheme they're doing and how they're doing, it helps everybody.''

Not all of this ripple effect is intangible. Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 29 1/2 sacks in large part because of the leads Manning's offense provided, allowing the pair of pass-rushers to, as the saying goes, pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.

``He puts everybody in the best position to show off your skill-set even if you're a grunt guy in the middle taking on double teams,'' said defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who posted a career high in tackles and even caught one of Manning's 37 touchdown passes when he lined up as a fullback.

While Elway, the Broncos' Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-executive, scaled the mountaintop to land Manning, he also climbed the league's scrap heap to find the likes of veteran castaways Keith Brooking, Trindon Holliday, Jimmy Leonhard, Jacob Hester and Dan Koppen, all of whom have, like Manning, revived their careers in Denver.

Manning, who's the best quarterback the NFL has ever known when it comes to decoding defenses, was especially helpful for Denver's secondary.

``DBs, we're known as the cocky bunch anyway. But we're definitely confident going out their having gone against Peyton Manning every day in practice,'' safety David Bruton said. ``I don't feel like there's a quarterback we'll face that will do anything on the field that we haven't seen in practice.''

The Broncos spent their bye week having their starting offense square off against their starting defense, and Woodyard said that when Manning scored on a sneak Wednesday, he spiked the ball and talked a little trash.

``Peyton comes to work excited about being here,'' Woodyard said. ``He's excited about a shorts practice and I've never seen a quarterback like that, amped up every day, getting guys better.''

To be sure, some of the uptick in so many players' games is a natural progression as they gain experience. Some of it is because of the way the focused Broncos have had their blinders on all season, never looking beyond the day's work or the next opponent.

Manning, though, sits atop the credits.

``I think there's a direct correlation because when you have a guy of that caliber, he gives everybody confidence,'' Fox said. ``Not just the guys on offense, the guys on defense. And that's where I'm talking about him raising all boats.''

Notes: The Broncos' season home attendance of 613,062 was the highest in the team's 53-year history. ... Left tackle Ryan Clady didn't practice all week, but the team isn't required to give an injury report until Tuesday. Clady has dealt with a bothersome hamstring of late but has never missed a game in his career.


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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