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'Friday Five' With Pat Traina, Eli Manning Edition

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Yes, it is Friday and even though there was a preseason game Thursday night we are giving you the weekly 'Friday Five' with Inside Football's Pat Traina first this morning. Be sure to check my answers to her questions over at Train-A-Thought.

I am calling this the 'Eli Manning Edition' because the first two questions you will find after the jump deal with the New York Giants quarterback.

Ed: I have read multiple times this week the theory that Eli Manning has regressed as a quarterback since Chris Palmer left and the Giants promoted Mike Sullivan, a first-time quarterbacks coach. Are you buying that a) Manning has regressed with his mechanics and decision-making and b) that, if that is the case, Sullivan needs to take some of the blame for it?

Pat: I think there is some validity to that argument. I'll use myself as an example. I've been writing stuff since I was in the fifth grade, and have been writing professionally in some capacity since I graduated from college.

In the first few years of my career, I had a mentor who used to review my writing and who used to work with me to correct little issues that really made a difference. When I started writing professionally, I found I could bounce ideas and questions off my mentor and I learned so much that I believe his input really accelerated my development as a writer.

Sadly, my mentor passed away several years ago, and I just couldn't bring myself to replacing him. Instead I figured, "I've learned enough and I can function on my own." But you know what? Every so often when I re-read some of my stuff, I see that I slipped into some bad habits that my mentor constantly used to point out.

Getting back to Eli and Sullivan, I think Sully is an excellent coach. However, he's learning the intricacies of the quarterback position as he goes, along whereas Chris Palmer knew his stuff inside and out. Sully is relying on Eli as much as Eli is relying on Sully, and when you have two guys as the students and no one as the teacher, that could be a problem.

When Palmer used to watch film with Eli, there is no doubt in my mind that he pointed out little things that Eli missed. Is Sully able to spot those same little idiocrasies? I'm not so sure about that because again, it takes years of experience to spot the little things.

Moreover, is Eli able to spot when he's lapsed into a bad habit? Well if he's like me he probably figures, "Hey, so long as it's working, then all is right with the world." But that doesn't mean that a bad habit won't catch up to a person sooner or later.

I also don't buy the argument that Eli is at a point in his career that he doesn't need to be coached as much as a younger player. You ask any athlete if after a certain amount of years in the league he's mastered his game, and he'll tell you that he still has room to grow in his craft because the game changes every year. That's where having an experienced coach is essential.

Again, I'm not saying Eli has stalled in his development. I do think Tom Coughlin might have misjudged the situation by not hiring an experienced quarterbacks coach to replace Palmer.

Ed: Another Manning question before we move on. Bill Parcells used to get in Phil Simms' face all the time when he did not like what was happening on the field. I have NEVER seen Tom Coughlin or Kevin Gilbride really challenge Eli on the sideline, or verbally chastise him to the media. Do the Giants sort of 'walk on egg shells' around Eli? I have wondered for a while if it would be beneficial to everybody to see Coughlin get up in Eli's face on the sidelines -- even just once -- after one of Eli's mystifyingly awful decisions, like the second interception Monday against the Jets.

Pat: Interesting point. I don't think the Giants walk on egg shells around Eli. Remember, Parcells had a different kind of relationship with his guys - the more he was in a guy's face, the more fond he was of him. Simms and Parcells' sideline battles were legendary - my favorite one was the "Tastes great, less filling" spat they had during a Monday night contest (can't remember who the team was, but I remember the story.)

That's just not Coughlin's style nor is it Gilbride's. Besides I don't think it would be effective with Eli, to be honest.

Ed: You asked me, so I will ask you. What would you do about the Giants' tight end situation? Is there an available player out there you believe could really help the Giants?

Pat: Right now I don't know. I'd have to see who becomes available when final roster cuts are made.

Ed: You have made it plain from the beginning that you did not like the Jerrel Jernigan as punt returner experiment. To be honest, I did. It's preseason, so find out what the kid can do. Now that it is obvious the Giants have to look in another direction in the regular season, what do you think the Giants will do with the punt return spot?

Pat: What I hope they do is quit beating around the bush and give the job back to Domenik Hixon. Seriously, I can understand not wanting to overwork the guy in preseason as he's coming back from knee surgery, but you know what? He had that surgery in June of last year. By opening day, he'll be almost 15 months removed from the surgery. Take the bubble wrap off the guy already as right now I think he's the best bet and the most proven.

Ed: You have taken Matt Dodge in the punting competition. I have taken Steve Weatherford. What are you sending me when I'm right and you're wrong? Seriously, you sticking with your call that Dodge wins the job? At this point, him making the roster would not be a huge stunner.

Pat: What are you going to send me if I am right? Seriously, I like Weatherford, but I think you have to look at the upside Dodge has. He has a big leg and he's young enough to where he can still improve - and I think he will.

I think at times he was victimized by poor coverage last year. I also think that down the line he could double as a kickoff specialist. We saw a little bit of that in camp this year until the coaches wisely remembered that it's not a good idea to put too much on his plate while he's still refining his primary occupation.

The other factor? He's a draft choice. How many times have we seen the Giants stick with a draft choice too long? William Joseph anyone?