New York Giants: Eli Manning isn’t what he once was, and that’s a problem

The Giants offense once again looks poor, and it goes beyond Odell Beckham's injury. Their quarterback is fading, fast.


The New York Football Giants are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. Dating all the way back to 1925, with 684 wins (third in NFL) and four Super Bowls they are one of the grand old teams in the sport, and it doesn’t hurt that they are in the Big Apple either.

Which means when things go wrong, it matters all the more, and right now there is no doubt that things are going wrong for the Giants. While the 2016 defense was wildly impressive and 2017 has seemed to get off on a similar footing, the offense is just as worryingly poor as it was last season too.

There has been a lot of coverage around the poor rushing game and Odell Beckham Jr.’s ankle, but what a lot of people are ignoring is the quarterback position, where Eli Manning is really, really struggling.

The narrative of Eli

Being the younger brother of Peyton Manning and trying to play quarterback has to be a nightmare, because even after 13+ seasons, 48,434 yards, 320 touchdowns, and two Super Bowls you are still very much inferior compared to him. However, thanks to those two Super Bowls coming against the New England Patriots, the team that tormented and defeated Peyton so many times, Eli has a badge of honor that no one can really tarnish. He will always be the quarterback that beat the then 18-0 Patriots in 2007, even if it was Justin Tuck and the defensive line that made the difference that day.

The reality of Eli

In case you haven’t noticed, Super Bowl XLII was nearly ten years ago, and a lot has changed since then. That great defensive line is gone, replaced with one that isn’t quite as destructive, and Eli Manning is not the same either.

The meat of Manning’s career came between 2009 and 2015, where he averaged 4,223 yards, 28 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 7.5 yards per attempt per season. He won his second Super Bowl in 2011 and looked like a quarterback who could take a team to another.

Now? Now the reality is very different.

Manning in 2017

Manning’s ability to diagnose the defense and distribute the ball has disappeared. He leaned heavily on Odell Beckham Jr. last year, especially for big plays. Beckham excelled at taking slants for big gains and beating even double coverage. However, even with that talent on the field, and good field position from a terrific defense, the Giants managed just 19.4 points per game, down an entire touchdown per game from 2015.

Without Odell in Week 1, the Giants had absolutely nothing to offer offensively. 46 of Eli’s 220 yards came on a meaningless drive to kill the final two minutes. Otherwise, he struggled all night to find any receiver downfield, averaging just 5.8 yards per attempt and looking entirely uncomfortable in the pocket.

There has always been a certain amount of immobility about Eli, but where Peyton or Tom Brady can slide in the pocket despite their lack of foot speed, Eli (helmet catch aside) has never been good at escaping pressure. It’s become worse as he ages, and with a poor offensive line forcing him to hurry the ball a lot more, but Manning’s inability to find mismatches and exploit holes in the defense has become a serious problem in an offense that does not often put players in advantageous positions.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Giants offense this year, from the head coach’s scheme to the players executing it, but there are also big problems brewing under center. He is under contract through the 2019 season and his cap hit jumps to a massive $22.2 million next year. That’s impossibly high for a passer who finished 27th in QBR last season (45.7) and looks to be heading that way again this season (25.1).

Tonight is a chance for the Giants to get back on track against a Lions defense that, on paper, isn’t so tough. They have a knack for stiffening in the red zone but plenty of teams have been able to drive on Detroit. If the Giants can’t, then it might be time to start looking for a new signal caller in MetLife Stadium.

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Toby Durant

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Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.

 

I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.

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