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Have the Giants gotten better at quarterback in 2018?

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Eli is still Eli, but with a better supporting cast and two young QBs waiting in the wings

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has all but declared the 2018 offseason a success, having said during that draft that “we are getting better, boys and girls.”

After all, the entire point of the off-season process is for a team to improve. If they need to make a move in the front office or in the coaching staff, they do so. They part ways with bad or ineffective players, add veteran free agents that are improvements or address holes, and draft talented rookies who can be inexpensive core players.

2018 has been one of the most active off-seasons in Giants’ history, and the common consensus is that they have gotten better.

So of course they’re a better team now than they were last September.

Right?

Well, Jeff Feyerer of Inside The Pylon isn’t so sure.

There’s actually quite a bit to dig in to here for just one tweet. To do so requires more context and information, so I went back to Feyerer’s 2017 season preview.

First, here is his valuation key, which he uses to get the numbers listed at the bottom:

He defines the “stability” grade as: “The percentage of a team’s roster valuation score comprised of win because, win with, and quality vet players.”

Meanwhile he defines “Volatility” as “The percentage of a team’s roster valuation score comprised of players in the first three years of their career, where most improvement occurs and where most players are not finished products.”

And finally, here is his roster valuation for the Giants heading in to the 2017 season, so we can see from where he draws his comparison.

I’m not going to argue Feyerer’s valuation one way or the other. He was right that the Giants and Dallas Cowboys were both primed for regression, while the Philadelphia Eagles were set to take a step forward. His methodologies are his own, and I’m not going to analyze them. Instead, I am going to use them as a jumping-off point to take a look at the Giants’ roster as it currently stands, compared to where it was.

Rather than look at the Giants’ entire roster — as it stands today — I’m going to be looking at it position-by-position, starting with the most important position on the field, the quarterbacks .

Quarterback

2017 - Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb

2018 - Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta

Thoughts: Eli Manning is still Eli Manning. At once, I believe he was both held back by the Giants’ offense last year and helped cover up its worst warts. He is still one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league, and his arm strength hasn’t declined significantly.

(Despite what analytics sites might say. Yes his yardage-per-pass average has declined, but that is just the nature of Ben McAdoo’s offense. Short routes that were easily bottled up by defenses.)

Manning, and the personnel around him, took plenty of heat for the offense going from the fourth rated scoring offense in 2015, scoring 26.2 points per game, to an atrocious 15.4 points per game (31st in the league) in 2017. However, the Giants’ issues on had a large schematic component that was independent of the personnel on the offense.

Pat Shurmur is in his second stint as a head coach, and had already established himself as more flexible and creative than McAdoo. He has proven willing to draw on a number of influences outside of his West Coast roots, including lessons taken from Chip Kelly and Norv Turner, and has consistently put his players in position to maximize their talents. That alone should allow Manning to play better than in

The expectation here (from myself and Ed Valentine) is that Manning will return to form in 2018. I’ll go so far as to say that I expect Eli to pick up where we all expected him to when Ben McAdoo was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach.

The personnel difference is behind Eli.

Davis Webb moves to the number two spot while rookie Kyle Lauletta is now the new kid in the building. The two should make for a fascinating quarterback battle over the next season or two. Stylistically, they are definitely a contrast. Webb is big with a big arm, able to effortlessly drive passes down-field with rare power, touch, and accuracy. However, his mechanics are erratic, making his accuracy inconsistent at all levels, and he has a tendency to rely on his arm strength rather than anticipate throws.

Lauletta, on the other hand, is a quick, accurate, rhythm passer who is able to throw with impressive anticipation. His arm is best described as “adequate” and he struggles to generate velocity on deep passes, leading to lazy balls that can be over-run or picked off if he doesn’t get them out early enough.

However, the two young quarterbacks also have a number of traits in common. While both are much better athletes than many realize, both have reputations for sky-high intangibles. They are high-character young men with strong work work ethics and high football IQs. They both seem to revel in putting in the process, putting in the work.

Going in to the 2017 draft, I tried to identify the traits of mid-round quarterbacks, such as Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, or Russell Wilson, who could develop into starters. I settled on work ethic, football IQ, and leadership as the prime traits, and kept an eye out for players with physical tools that could be developed. Before the draft, I ultimately settled on Webb as my prospect to watch in that regard. This year, Lauletta checks those same boxes.

As far as the future is concerned, the Giants have created a quarterback competition to find the heir to Manning -- or prove that they will need to make a more drastic action when Eli’s career is finally over.

For now, neither has anything like the track record that Geno Smith has shown as far as starting and winning NFL games. So it is probably safe to say that while Eli will be improved, the depth has, for now, regressed.

The quarterback position should be more productive in 2018 than in 2017. But from front to back, it also has more to prove.