THROWING INTO COVERAGE
This will be vital, because Manning and Leaf will find the coverage far tighter in the NFL than it was in college. Leaf needs to tighten his spiral and throw with more precision, but under a quarterbacks coach like Jones, he should learn how to. Manning is more confident than Leaf in his ability to zing a ball into a tight spot, but this could get him into trouble. Against a good pocket-pressuring team, like the Buffalo Bills, Manning will have to make quick decisions, because he'll have Bruce Smith and Ted Washington boring in. Manning's collegiate Achilles' heel was decision-making against jailbreak rushes such as Florida's. The Indianapolis line gave up an AFC-high 62 sacks last season. If he becomes a Colt, Manning will have to make a living throwing under pressure.
Indy president Bill Polian is doing an astute job of not tipping his hand as the draft draws nigh. On April 18, it should be Manning and Leaf, in that order. That's no guarantee that Manning will turn out to be the better pro quarterback, of course. Simms went four slots after Jack Thompson 1979. Jim McMahon went one pick lower than Art Schlichter in 1982. Dan Marino went 20 selections after Todd Blackledge in 1983. What does seem reasonably certain is that, warts and all, both Manning and Leaf should develop into at least good NFL starters. After two drafts in which no quarterback was picked in the top 25, that's generating genuine excitement.
"Quarterback is the toughest position in sports to coach, to evaluate and to play," says Angelo, an NFL scout for 18 years. "A few years ago, we studied the top 30 quarterbacks of all time. The Number 1 trait we found was toughness; they all had it. Number 2 was accuracy. Number 3 was instincts. The last was work ethic and maturity. Peyton's got them all. He's talented, and he'll handle the inferno of going to a 3-13 team. He's a sure player."
Angelo pauses as if he's remembering the ghosts of Thompson, Schlichter and Blackledge. "I mean," he adds, "as sure as you can be about anybody in this league."
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