It's been three long years since Kyle Orton started a season opener, but the Bears quarterback believes he's not only a better football player but also a better person than the rookie who got beat by the Redskins 9-7 back on Sep. 11, 2005. Orton went from starter in 2005 to third string in 2006 after Rex Grossman recovered fully from a broken ankle and veteran Brian Griese was brought in via trade, but he went 2-1 in three starts to close out 2007 once both Grossman and Griese battled spells of injury and ineffectiveness. He is now the unquestioned starter under center after beating out Grossman for the job.
Experts around the league believe Orton will struggle because of the lack of talent on the receiving end of his passes, although the former fourth-round draft pick believes he has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
"I think we've got five [or] six guys that can make plays on a consistent basis," Orton said before practice Wednesday. "I think we've got two or three guys that can step up every game and put up big numbers. I don't know who it's going to be on every given game, but somebody will step up and have a big game."
Not only does Orton have the full confidence of those wideouts, but apparently the locker room as a whole thinks quite highly of him – he was named a team captain Monday.
"It was a big honor for me," he said. "I was just real happy. [I] didn't expect it. I feel like I've worked hard and try to lead by example and [will] certainly be prepared for every week, and that's the way I'm going to approach it. But very happy."
For the first time in his career as a Midway Monster, Orton isn't just keeping the seat warm for another QB.
Hillenmeyer is expecting Manning to be as good as ever despite the knee
Most quarterbacks need all the reps they can get in order to be fully prepared for the long season, but Hunter Hillenmeyer isn't buying that and believes Manning will be the same player he saw in Super Bowl XLI.
"He doesn't need any practice," Hillenmeyer said in the locker room Wednesday. "I know he'll be as sharp as he otherwise would be if he'd been out there for every preseason game. He's a pro. It's probably given him extra time to watch tape. He'll be as ready as ever."
Manning has never been especially mobile in the pocket and shouldn't have to adjust his game as a result, but Hillenmeyer sees a pattern for every time Archie's son has been beaten in the past.
"When you watch when Peyton has struggled, it's always been pressure," he said. "And not necessarily sacks or big hits, just making him uncomfortable [and] making him move his feet. That's when people have had success, they've gotten the takeaways and the interceptions and stuff like that. No more so because he's injured or coming off of an injury right now, but just in general. You've always got to get pressure on him."
Fortunately for the Bears, Indy is dealing with issues along the offensive line and could be more vulnerable than usual up front – especially with center Jeff Saturday out of the lineup.
News & Notes
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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