As we continue our series of player-by-player profiles we have arrived at the consensus choice for the most indispensable member of the New York Giants. That, of course, is quarterback Eli Manning. What should we expect from the 34-year-old Manning as he enters his 12th NFL season and second in the offense constructed by Ben McAdoo? Let's have a look.
2014 Season in Review
We have talked before about the numbers Manning put up last season, and we will get to those. Let's give him props for something else first, though. That is what he did that enabled him to put up those excellent numbers. Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, accepted a completely new system for the first time in his career. He accepted brand new footwork and mechanics. He accepted being asked to study like a rookie and doing things he has never been asked to do before.
"There are so many components, particularly from the timing standpoint and from a footwork standpoint, even just from the initial stance in the shotgun, which were different from what he had done in the previous 10 years of his career," said quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan, himself returning to the Giants after being away for the past seasons. "I gained an even greater respect and appreciation for him to be able to adjust and to be able to have the open mind and embrace a lot of subtleties.
"It's still football and it is still about a quarterback making good decisions, being accurate with the football and being a leader, but from a terminology and technique standpoint, I was very impressed with a lot of the things he has been able to adjust to."
The rise of the incomparable Odell Beckham Jr. had a lot to do with the numbers Manning eventually put up. The willingness to work and learn, which should not be taken for granted with a player as accomplished as Manning, put him in position to excel. It is also one of the big reasons the Giants are in position to have one of the league's elite offenses in 2015.
Let's recap those numbers from what was arguably the best regular season of Manning's career.
- A career-best 63.1 percent completion percentage
- 4,410 passing yards, his best since totaling 4,933 yards in 2011.
- 30 touchdown passes, second highest-total of his career.
- He threw only 14 interceptions after a career-worst 27 in 2013. His interception percentage of 2.3 was the second-lowest of his career.
- His passer rating of 92.1 was the second-highest of his career.
- Manning's QBR of 70.93 was the best of his career and nearly double the 36.53 he posted in 2013.
- His 379 completions and 601 passing attempts were the most of his career.
- Manning's 275.6 yards passing per game was the second-highest total of his career.
Yes, apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks. And he can be better for them.
2015 Season Outlook
There is plenty of speculation floating around regarding what might happen after 2015, especially if the Giants have another down year. Manning, of course, is entering the final year of his contract. Tom Coughlin will be 69. A fourth straight year without a playoff berth and all bets are off when it comes to figuring out the future. That, however, is a story for another day. And it is one we will delve into, just not right now.
Manning is poised to have a huge season in 2015, but that is only going to happen if the skill players around him are healthy and the offensive line in front of him holds up.
New system or not, after watching him for 11 seasons we know what Manning is -- and what he is not. He will always be as well prepared as any NFL quarterback not named Peyton. He will always give the Giants a chance. He will always be savvy at the line of scrimmage and put the Giants in the best possible play. Hewill always make some incredible throws. The new offense will help him find some easier throws and easier completions, but Manning will always be unafraid to take a risk when necessary, to throw a 50-50 ball and trust his receiver to make a play. He will always be a quarterback who occasionally has games that make you want to call him a knucklehead, or worse. He will always be a pocket quarterback, a stationary target who functions much better when his blockers allow him to set his feet and deliver the ball.
Manning's increased comfort in and knowledge of the Giants offense should translate into increased efficiency and scoring for the Giants, provided he has healthy receivers and that the team's re-configured offensive line is up to the challenge of both protecting him and providing Giants' running backs with holes to run through.
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said at the end of minicamp that the veteran quarterback's offseason "has been encouraging" and that "I like the look in his eye right now."
Giants receivers have noted that Manning is throwing the ball exceptionally well, with more zip than he has in recent years. Manning says he feels like he is throwing the ball with "good juice on it" and that he has a "better feel for the offense" than he did a year ago.
"I think when you know where you are going with the ball, it always helps," Manning said. "Have a plan, have a progression where you are going to start, put your feet in the right direction, make sure you can be able to step into your throws and I think that when you have a little more comfort and have a better confidence in your reads and where you are going with the ball and getting to your second and third receivers in the progression, the ball should come out a little better."
If Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell are all healthy -- and Cruz is at least close to what he was before his torn patellar tendon -- Manning will be throwing to the best group of receivers he has ever been surrounded by. If the Giants can incorporate Shane Vereen into the passing attack, and Vereen and Manning develop some chemistry, Manning will have a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield unlike any he has had since Tiki Barber.
If rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers can hold his own and the Giants give Manning time to take advantage of this impressive arsenal, the results could be spectacular.