Is Eli Manning really in decline?
Join us each day through the start of Giant training camp for a mini analysis of select members on the New York Giants roster.
We’ll briefly recap their 2016 season if applicable, look at some burning questions specific to the player, and close with a projected 2018 outlook.
All good things must ultimately come to an end, including the long-running and largely successful tenure of New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning.
The holder of almost all the team’s passing records, team officials believe, per Newsday’s Bob Glauber, that the Giants 36-year-old iron man has at least two or three years of football left in him, a span that coincides with the years remaining on his contract, which runs through the 2019 season.
Under head coach Ben McAdoo, who after being hired as the team’s offensive coordinator implemented the West Coast Offense, Manning enjoyed some of his finest seasons.
Manning ‘s completion rates in that three-year span have included 63.1 (2014), 62.6% (2015) and 62.3% (2016) with all three seasons seeing him pass for more than 4,300 yards in each.
Yet there have been questions about Manning’s “slippage,” and if it’s skill-related or if there is a hidden cause such as an undisclosed injury, that caused his yards per attempt average to drop from over 7 in the first two years in the West Coast Offense to 6.7 last year.
One thing is for sure: The Giants are intent on winning at least one more championship before Manning joins his brother Peyton in retirement.
Is he really in decline?
The afore mentioned numbers would suggest so, but then again, how much of the afore-mentioned numbers were a result of the pass protection and/or receivers not getting open?
The true litmus test for Manning will be this year. He finally has a tight end who can help break up much of the Cover-2 defense the passing game saw last year.
His offensive line should be better—both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, who struggled badly last year, have recommitted themselves to their crafts in the offseason.
The Giants also added a blocking tight end in Rhett Ellison who can help with that blocking up front as needed, and they added some veteran depth to the offensive line in D.J. Fluker as well as rookie Adam Bisnowaty and UDFAs such as Chad Wheeler and Jessamen Dunker.
Manning is in no way washed up. If you compare his numbers to the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East, only Kirk Cousins of Washington threw for more yards. Manning threw the most touchdowns (25) out of Cousins, Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz.
But what about those head-scratching decisions he made last year?
Manning always has and probably always will be a risk taker. Every time he sets foot out there, his goal is to make a play.
Were some of his decisions poor? Yes, in retrospect, though we don’t know exactly how many of his 17 interceptions from last year (the highest number of INTs he’s thrown in the WCO) were a result of a receiver not running the proper or full route.
Yes, Manning needs to be smarter out there and maybe take fewer risks, even though he has a defense that bailed him and the offense out repeatedly when they committed those “throw the remote” moments.
Was he injured last year?
There was a theory raging among fans that Manning suffered some sort of injury after taking a rough hit in a Week 3 in a home game against Washington. Eagle-eye fans theorized that Manning’s passes just didn’t have the zip on them as those earlier in the year.
Manning, of course, never appeared on the injury report, never missed a practice or a game, so if he was injured—and let’s face it, every player who steps on the field is going to have some degree of soreness—it was something that he was able to take care of through rest and recovery.
With that said, if you break down Manning’s pass attempts as the season went on, he threw more than 40 times in eight of the team’s 17 games (including the Wildcard, with five of those games having him attempt at least 45 passes (including one game where he attempted 63 passes!)
In the last nine games of the season (including the Wild Card game), Manning threw at least 35 times in four of those games.
As everyone knows, the Giants running game struggled; when the running game couldn’t get going, it naturally fell on Manning.
With that said, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is; when you ask a guy to throw that many times, you run the risk of wearing out his arm.
After seeing what an infusion of talent did for the defense last year, it’s now the offense’s turn to get some much-needed difference makers to complement Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
The new personnel should help McAdoo, who will probably retain the play-calling duties, create more versatile looks on offense beyond the 11-personnel which he ran more than 90 percent of the time last year.
In the last few years, Manning has shown that he can’t do it alone, that he needs help around him. The new personnel and a commitment to more diverse looks should be enough to get both Manning and the offense back on track this year.