What has usually not been a cause for concern for most Giants fans, Eli Manning’s miscues and interceptions should now be an aspect to worry about.
(Photo courtesy of nj.com)
In the first two games, Eli Manning has thrown seven interceptions. Conversely, over the past 3 seasons, the younger Manning leads the league with 56 interceptions. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers has 15 over that same time span and 47 in his nine seasons in the league. The Giants would have been able to overcome Manning’s propensity to turn the ball over with a talented squad, which they have had in the past. The 2013 iteration of the New York Giants is devoid of talent though. Manning’s three interceptions in week one and four in week two have put his team in precarious situations which results in their game plan being changed. Conversely, the defense which is not as strong as it used to be cannot stop anyone and with the turnovers from the offense, are giving up field position on a consistent basis.
What should concern the locals about the Giants is an apparent transition as a passing unit. The first two games, the Giants carried the ball 14 and 19 times respectively. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has always had a rather simplistic run-first, pass-second offense. They do not run the read-option, nor do they try to confuse teams with complicated spread offenses. This is one of the few offensive units that still deploys a fullback and will line up the tight end as an in-line blocker. Historically, once the run game is established, they will beat teams with an effective play-action passing game, while taking ‘shots’ downfiled with the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Now, it appears Manning has been given free-reign and the Giants are becoming a pass-first, run-second offense.
Manning, while being one of the better clutch players in the game, has also struggled with accuracy on his throws. He missed Hakeem Nicks on easy completions against the Broncos, putting him and other receivers in situations to get waylaid due to imprecise throws. He also threw some bone-headed interceptions in double and triple coverage. One must wonder, is it truly a good recipe to allow your veteran quarterback, who has a tendency to throw interceptions and has accuracy issues, to throw upwards of 40 passes per game? So far, the Giants are 26th in time of possession in two games, which means for short drives and fewer opportunities for the defense to rest. And if you are turning the ball over and losing the time of possession battle against high-powered offenses such as the Cowboys and Broncos, you put undue strain on your defense.
While it is understandable that the Giants may not trust the likes of the ultra-talented David Wilson and Da’Rel Scott (while Andre Brown is injured), the realization that Eli Manning makes far too many mistakes must factor in with the pass-to-run ratio. With the addition of Brandon Jacobs, this should swing the ratio more towards the running side, but that did not happen against Denver.
Tom Coughlin has been a perfectionist as a coach and is disgusted when his teams cannot play sound football. When your quarterback is struggling, the last thing you want to do is continue to dial-up the passing game. The Giants should take an example from the Texans who feature a heavy running game with a solid quarterback who also struggles with accuracy and decision-making.
It may be time to coddle Eli, like the Giants did when he first entered the league and he eventually led the team to their first Superbowl since 1990. At that time, Manning was a young player coming into his own. While quarterbacking a Giants team that had talent on both sides of the ball and could dominate the line of scrimmage, he was not asked to do too much. This allowed the game-plan to be geared more towards the running game and relying on a terrific defensive front and dominant offensive line. It is even more imperative, now, that the Giants reinvigorate this philosophy of offensive balance, owning time of possession and alleviating pressure of the defense. If not, it could be a long season for Eli Manning and the Giants.