“And Eli Manning throws another interception!“
Listening to announcers utter those words was all too routine for Big Blue fans last year. Football fans were witnesses to Manning’s abysmal 2013 campaign in which he threw a league, and career high 27 interceptions. This year Eli is being forced to learn a new offensive system for the first time ever. After 10 years in Kevin Gilbride’s offense, Eli goes west coast with Ben McAdoo. Facing a career cross roads, Eli is an old dog forced to learn new tricks. With that being said, I believe Eli will have a bounce back 2014, but he won’t be amazing.
By saying Eli will have a bounce back year I’m not saying he will outplay his brother Peyton or anything crazy like that. I’m simply proposing the idea that Manning has somewhat of a comeback campaign, and given his stats from last year it shouldn’t be too hard.
Obviously the term ‘bounce back’ is very vague. Technically it means an improvement. With that being said, Eli Manning improving from last year will happen. No doubt. There’s no way Eli throws for 27 interceptions for a consecutive year. However, nobody wins Comeback Player of the Year for simply slightly improving from a horrendous previous year. By the NFL’s definition, bounce back would get categorized as returning to a previous, presumably good, form. So yes, Eli will statistically be better than last year, but he will not have a performance reminiscent of his magical 2011.
In an effort to protect Easy E, the Giants completely redesigned their offensive line. David Diehl and Chris Snee both retired, but the Giants brought in a whole host of other talented players. Charles Brown, John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Geoff Schwartz all came to New York in free agency, The Giants also drafted multi purpose lineman Weston Ruichburg in the second round.
Say what you want about this offensive line, but it’s an improvement over last year’s constantly shifting group. Justin Pugh exceeded expectation as the right tackle last year, as he only let up three sacks, per nfl.com. Walton is a big upgrade over David Baas, and while Geoff Schwartz is out for at least six games, he offers leadership and stability.
Even if a player goes down, the Giants now have depth, something that direly lacked last year. I’m not blaming all of Manning’s 27 picks on the line, but it definitely didn’t help. Most of Eli’s passes were just bad, as he was tasked with trying to carry the entire offense on his right shoulder.
The improved offensive line directly coincides with the rejuvenated run game, which is another huge reason why Manning should be poised for a comeback campaign. Last year the Giants were 29th in the league for rushing offense. Now retired running back David Wilson was placed on season ending IR, and Andre Brown never did much. What the Giants thought to be a solid group at the start of the season dwindled down to a group thats best runner was Peyton Hillis.
This year the run game looks astronomically better, as Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams look like a formidable duo. Now Eli doesn’t have to worry about trying to do everything by himself.
Manning can rely on the run game to set up the passing game with play action. Yes, I know. I watched the preseason and Eli’s play was well, bad. He only threw for one touchdown and at times looked like a rookie quarterback. However, I really don’t think it’s possible for Manning to do worse than last year. His completion percentage will no doubt be improved from last year, as the offense is predicated on short passes and check downs. Victor Cruz is also still a part of the offense, and he’ll do well, just like he always does.
Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Odell Beckham Jr. round out Manning’s receivers, and it’s a talented group. However, Cruz is the only real threat, and Beckham Jr. has yet to play with Manning in a real game.
Manning is also devoid of a reliable tight end for the first time in his career. Sure, Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, Martellus Bennett and Brandon Myers aren’t great, but I’m sure Manning would prefer them over Adrien Robinson or Larry Donnell. Manning typically relies heavily on his tight ends, especially in the red zone, so not having a good one hurts.
Look, historically Eli has always had his best years following a bad year and an off season full of criticism. Following a 2006 season full of miscues, numerous people wanted Eli out of New York. He responded in 2007 by winning a Super Bowl. After his 25 interception performance in 2010, he had a storybook 2011 and won the Super Bowl.
Notice a pattern?
However, before I get carried away, we also have to analyze some other, less sexy statistics. According to nfl.com, Eli’s completion percentage has dropped every year since 2009. His passing yards have been up and down, which has let most people to believe Manning is in severe decline. The counter argument to that is the fact that Eli’s numbers have always been up and down. In fact, Eli has really never been consistent from a statistical standpoint. The longest he’s ever gone without throwing an interception is three games, so it’s not like he was ever super secure with the ball.
Who cares about history and what Eli did in the past, though? We can look at history all we want but does it really mean much? In the world of sports, not really. So let’s talk about now.
If you saw Eli in the preseason well, it was laughable. Manning looked timid in the pocket and made some horrid throws. One could chalk that up to working out the kinks in a new offense, but very soon the Giants’ preseason will turn into the regular season. Manning can’t play like that against Detroit in the season opener.
Eli told nfl.com that he’s not worried about the new offense struggling. When he was asked about his atrocious preseason, Manning responded in the most Eli Manning way possible. Manning said, “I’ve never looked back at my old preseason stats. I have a feeling they’re not very good in the other years either.”
Another issue with Manning is his health. It’s never been a question before, but after leaving 2013’s season finale with an ankle injury, Manning received surgery in the off season. With Eli only getting older, you have to wonder whether or not he can even make it through a 16 game stretch.
Manning is just so infuriatingly hard to predict. I think it’s safe to say that in 2013 we saw the very worst of Eli Manning. The big question I have is have we also seen the very best? We’ve seen Eli hold Lombardi trophies, as well as the distinction as the league’s most turnover ridden quarterback.
Will Manning and the Giants win the Super Bowl this year? No, probably not. Will they even win the NFC East? Hard to tell. One thing that is certain, however, is that Eli will improve from last year. I don’t think there’s any way Manning replicates his 27 interception outing.
Although I think it will definitely take a few weeks for the offense to click, I think behind a solid offensive line and with a solid run game, Eli will be able to do some good things. Once he gets in a rhythm Manning should do fine.
So here’s my final verdict: Eli Manning will have a comeback year of sorts, throwing for 3,900 yards, 25 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Eli will most likely improve, and if he doesn’t, Tom Coughlin might have to think about the Ryan Nassib experiment.
So if you support Eli Manning and you believe he still has a lot to offer the G-Men, great. If you think Manning is a brain dead, incompetent quarterback, also great. Regardless of your stance on Eli, I have a feeling he won’t be too bothered.