Anyone who has followed me over the years knows that when it comes to the play of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, I’ve been quick to point out various factors behind his seemingly “declining” play which, as of last year, came to a head.
No running game? Yes.
Losing your top receivers? Yes.
Playing in a scheme that doesn’t really complement what you do well? Yup.
Playing behind a banged up offensive line that offered protection that left a lot to be desired? Absolutely.
Well for those of you who were looking for wholesale changes, general manager Dave Gettleman heard you loud and clear.
Manning now has the type of arsenal that most quarterbacks dream of — a running back who can also double as a force in space; the game’s best receiver; a solid tight end and complementary pieces that give the Giants depth at their skill positions that they haven’t had in a very long time.
While there are still questions about the offensive line, on paper and in the handful of preseason snaps this unit took together, they’re already well ahead of where last year’s opening lineup was.
As for the scheme, the Giants finally have a coach at the helm who is making the scheme all about the players rather than trying to fit square pegs into round holes as the previous head coach and architect of the offense did.
In other words, the stars are aligned for 37-year-old Eli Manning to have the kind of success that has largely escaped him the last few years.
While a legitimate argument can be made that Manning’s arm strength isn’t quite what it used to be, people need to remember that in Pat Shurmur’s eyes, arm strength isn’t as important as making lightning fast decisions, something Manning has always done well.
With a better supporting cast around him, there’s no reason to think that Manning won’t look like his old self out there.
If the Giants are to have any chance of becoming relevant again, they will need him to.
A question I’ve received several times this offseason that I haven’t really been able to answer because reporters weren’t allowed into the locker room until this week is what the atmosphere is inside of the locker room.
Having been in the locker room several times this week, my initial impression is that the players are much calmer this year.
There’s a sense of urgency, don’t get me wrong. But in taking on the personality of their head coach, the players seem to be living in the moment, meaning there hasn’t been any trash talking or chests puffed out to the next county.
The players have been accommodating — probably more so than I can remember of late — and have spoken to the media with a sense of sincerity when it comes to the opponent and for the task at hand.
One thing that has especially struck me as being different is the number of players who are out in the open locker room interacting with their teammates.
I can only speak about the 45 minutes or so the media gets during the day, but I’ve seen far more instances of either position groups hanging around together or guys who in the past might have sought refuge from the areas off limits to the media being in the open locker room.
For example, every day this week, offensive linemen Jon Halapio, John Greco and Will Hernandez were at their respective lockers (Halapio has the corner locker, followed by Greco and then Hernandez).
Whether they were just sitting around shooting the breeze or whatever, that is the kind of cohesiveness that I often thought was missing last year.
Also a somewhat new sight this week was that receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was present in the open locker room virtually every day.
In the past, Beckham would only be seen extensively if it was his scheduled day to speak to the media, but this week, he was out and available, even engaging in a friendly game of cards with teammate Jonathan Stewart while sprawled out on his belly.
Landon Collins, a newly-elected team captain, has always been good about being present in the open locker room. This year, he’s been joined by another team captain, Michael Thomas, who is routinely at his locker where he engages in friendly chats with teammates.
Remember, these are the guys who are gong into battle with one another. The more you get to know each other, the better it is for when split-second decisions have to be made with the game on the line.
The Giants made it official Friday by declaring edge rusher Olivier Vernon (ankle) out of Sunday’s regular-season home opener.
Earlier this week, head coach Pat Shurmur said that Vernon is a “fast healer,” but let’s be realistic.
That Vernon has not been seen since he injured the ankle August 26 is concerning. Usually with an injured player, he at least comes out to work on a side field with a trainer during practice just to work on movement.
Vernon hasn’t even been able to do that so far.
Although it’s too early to wonder about next week, I think you have to face the possibility that until he can get out there and do something — anything — on the field, the Giants could be looking at the very real possibility of having to be without their best defensive player for multiple games.