Broncos get jolt of confidence from Manning

Manning also will need a running game. The Broncos led the league in rushing yards a year ago, but may find manufacturing a ground attack will be more challenging without option master Tim Tebow under center.

Fox's history says he will not downplay the run. But he never has had a quarterback whose ability comes close to Manning's.

"It's still always important to be balanced regardless of how good your quarterback is," Fox said. "(Still,) there is no doubt you can open it up a little if you have more confidence and you can execute better."

Manning also will need help from the defense. The Broncos have a new coordinator with a somewhat different scheme and are likely to have five new starters.

"We've tried to incorporate some of the things they did well here in the past and some of the terminology they understood, then blend it with some of the things I believe you have to do," new defensive coordinator and former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We added more multiple fronts and more mixing of coverages, some of the things Coach Fox and I have a common vision about how it should look."

It is all likely to look much better if Manning still is Manning. And the early indications are that he is.

There is a scar, about an inch long, at the base of the front of his neck, just to the left of center. But it wasn't visible when he lofted a beautiful 40-yard touchdown pass to Thomas in practice the other day. Or when he was hitting out routes on the money.

"To me his arm looks the same," Stokley said. "It's no different than what it was six years ago. I can't tell the difference."

You, however, can tell the difference in these Broncos.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei
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