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Valentine’s Views: Thoughts on “Check down Eli,” win-now mode, more

Examining some of reasons for all the short throws, thoughts on the Brett Jones deal, getting better vs. winning now, more

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s Tuesday. An off day for the 0-2 New York Giants before they begin full preparations for their Week 3 game against the Houston Texans. That also makes it time for my weekly “Valentine’s Views” brain dump.

Where else to start but with quarterback Eli Manning.

A few thoughts on ‘Check down Eli”

One thing I have said for years about Manning is this — whatever side of the never-ending debate you are on about Manning you are likely dug in, way in, and not changing your mind no matter what anyone says or writes. If you are an Eli-basher you think he’s toast, should have been run out of town years ago, can’t play a lick, and that your grandmother — or Sam Darnold — would be a better quarterback for the Giants. If you’re an Eli supporter, you look at the cards he’s been dealt the past few years, the unreliable blocking, so-so at best running, etc. and think he’s been given a bad hand. That the Giants have wasted what should have been good years with the best quarterback the franchise has ever seen.

Anyone who has read this website for even a moderate length of time knows which side I have been on. That said, here are some of things I think about what we saw from Manning Sunday.

  • I think 29 of 44 passes being no more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — 12 of them behind the line — is utterly ridiculous. You just can’t score enough points that way, and the Giants obviously did not.
  • I think that NFL analyst Brian Baldinger is absolutely right. They can say whatever they want, but I think it’s apparent neither Manning nor head coach Pat Shurmur has real trust in the offensive line right now.
  • I think Baldinger’s point is clear in the play-calling. Some of those short throws Sunday were Manning checking the ball down, maybe too many, but a great deal of it was by design. The first play was a designed swing pass to Saquon Barkley. The entire first half was filled with designed dump offs and quick throws short of the sticks hoping guys could catch-and-run for first downs.
  • I absolutely think Manning is aware, sometimes too aware, of the pass rush. I haven’t seen the All-22 film yet, but I did think there were a few throws Manning should have hit where he let the rush impact him. A second-quarter slant to Odell Beckham Jr. and a third-quarter swing pass to Barkley that he short-hopped come to mind.
  • I think if what you saw from Manning Sunday surprised you then you really haven’t been paying attention for years now. Manning has been both poorly protected and played on largely bad teams since the Giants last won the Super Bowl in 2011, and in my view there is a cumulative effect after years of hits. Yes, there are times he gets a little jittery or goes into self-preservation mode.
  • I think this is why the rebuild of the offensive line is so critical. Without a good one Manning will look like an old man who can’t play. It’s why Pat Shurmur has said the Giants will go as far as the offensive line takes them. If they don’t protect Manning and open some legitimate holes for Barkley to run through the offense will never be what it could, or should, be. That should surprise no one. We’ve been saying it for months now.
  • I think there was evidence that a protected, comfortable Manning can still make the throws. There was a 14-yard back shoulder throw to Sterling Shepard. A 37-yard strike to Cody Latimer. The 18-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram. The quarterback was well-protected on all of them, and delivered excellent throws.
  • I think I’m really looking forward to reading the study of Manning’s decision-making on Sunday that I’ve asked quarterback analyst Mark Schofield to put together this week.

About that trade of Brett Jones

In the wake of the unfortunate season-ending injury suffered by Giants’ center Jon Halapio, there are many Giants fans taking shots at GM Dave Gettleman for having traded backup center Brett Jones to the Minnesota Vikings last month for a seventh-round pick.

I’m not going to be one of them.

I did not agree with the Giants’ decision to give the starting center job to Halapio. Jones played well, albeit for a different coaching staff, in 2017. Halapio had never played center until this season.

Still, it’s the choice the Giants made. They traded Jones for the simple reason that they desperately needed salary cap space, Jones was one of the few tradable commodities they had, and they could save $2.914 million by moving him. So, they did. If he wasn’t going to start, trading him was really an obvious move.

I feel awful for Halapio. After having bounced from team to team, practice squad to practice squad, doing two stints in the short-lived Fall Experimental Football League, he was finally getting his chance. Individually, at least, he was doing well with it. Per Pro Football Focus, he has a 100 percent pass-blocking efficiency score on 71 pass-blocking snaps. There is also this:

I can’t criticize Gettleman for trading Jones. With the choice that had been made by the coaching staff and the salary cap crunch the Giants faced, he did what he had to do.

Sorry, Carl

I have a deep respect for Carl Banks, who was a wonderful player and is an excellent radio analyst who knows more football than I ever will. Banks is also a friend of Big Blue View, and has helped both me and — by extension — this website.

I think, though, no I know that I disagree with a couple of the assertions he made Monday on WFAN Radio.

“I don’t know why people have these really high expectations,” for the Giants is one of the things Banks said.

He also said this, which was not in our original report:

“The expectation as I saw it with the amount of turnover was not a win-now [but] team a get better now team.”

C’mon, Carl! That’s nonsense.

“Get better now” isn’t enough with a 37-year-old quarterback who’s time is running out. Yes, the Giants have to get better. Yes, they were 3-13 a year ago with, as Banks absolutely correctly said was a team that had “bad talent.”

That’s why they turned over more than half the roster.

The Giants went all-in on the present because they believe Manning still has enough gas in the tank to win games. So, I will repeat something I have been saying for a while. To prove they choose the right path, the Giants have to win games.

Things I think

  • I’m still waiting for evidence that Kaelin Clay was a better option to return punts than Hunter Sharp, released to make room for Clay.
  • Rookie linebacker Lorenzo Carter has to play more. Somebody on that defense has to be able to threaten the passer, and Carter is showing signs that he can. He needs to be on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps.
  • Quietly, both placekicker Aldrick Rosas and punter Riley Dixon have done nice jobs thus far. Aside from that whole onside kick out of bounds thing at the end of Sunday’s game.
  • I think that if the Giants don’t figure out how to defend the read option in a hurry DeShaun Watson is going to make them look absolutely foolish on Sunday.
  • I think I’m worried about whether Curtis Riley can really handle the free safety role.

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