Ever since that disastrous 3-13 season last year, everyone has been wondering if the Eli Manning era is over in New York. In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Giants gambled on the era continuing by using the 2nd overall selection on RB Saquon Barkley, instead of a successor to Manning. With the Giants sitting at 1-4 this season, everyone’s worst fears have been realized: Eli Manning has nothing left in the tank…or does he?
Don’t get me wrong, having watched the Giants’ five games this season, Manning does NOT pass the eye test. He often looks confused, hurried, and weak-armed. But looks can be deceiving, and the numbers tell a different story. So far this season, he’s completed 71.7% of his passes for 1,381 yards with a 7.4 yard average, 6 TDs, 3 picks, and a 96.6 passer rating (stats via NFL.com). How does that stack up to his career numbers?
- His yardage total he’s on pace for and his TD-INT ratio are his best in three years.
- His yards per pass average is his highest in six years.
- His completion percentage and passer rating are both the highest of any season in his career.
How does that stack up against the rest of the league’s starting QBs?
- 3rd in completion percentage
- 16th in yardage
- 12th in passer rating
All of those are in the top half of the league. Which leads me to my point:
Eli is not the problem.
Here are categories in which the Giants are ranked in the bottom half of the league (also from NFL.com):
- 28th in rushing yards
- 23rd in points per game
- 10th most sacks allowed
- 19th in time of possession per game
- 14th most points allowed per game
- T-Last in sacks
- 6th most rushing yards allowed per game
- T-27th in forced fumbles
- T-Last in fumble recoveries
What does that tell us? It tells us that new General Manager Dave Gettleman has yet to solidify the front lines as he did during his tenure in Carolina. The lack of sacks and fumbles on the defensive side is a result of poor pass rush, likely due to a combination of OLB Olivier Vernon‘s current injury situation and DE Jason Pierre-Paul‘s departure via trade during the offseason. This is a new issue that I wouldn’t necessarily expect to continue, but we’ll have to see how the pass rush looks once Vernon returns to the lineup.
The high number of sacks and lack of power running game on the offensive side is a result of the same issue the Giants have been facing over the last several years (and this is a highly technical term): a piece of crap offensive line. Here are some not-so-fun statistics on the Giants offensive line from Football Outsiders:
- 23rd in pass protection
- LAST in run blocking, with 0.22 fewer adjusted line yards than the next worst team
- Broken down specifically: LAST in runs up the middle, off the guards, and off the left end of the line. The Giants are one of just TWO TEAMS with NEGATIVE adjusted line yards off the left end of the line.
Look, I get it as a NFL fan: when things go wrong, you blame the quarterback because he’s the guy in charge. The fact that he’s 37 years old and last won a Super Bowl 6 years ago makes it even easier for people to point the finger at Eli. Besides, how can the remade and retooled offensive line be playing this poorly? Gettleman used a second-round pick on LG Will Hernandez spent $62 million on LT Nate Solder, and finally got rid of the cancerous, disastrous T Ereck Flowers. It’s possible that the new combination is still working on chemistry. After all, none of the 5 starting offensive linemen were full-time starters for the Giants before this season (one of them still shouldn’t be, C John Greco is replacing C Jon Halapio who is on IR).
The bottom line lies within the statistics above: RT Chad Wheeler is the ONLY one of the 5 starting offensive linemen who is pulling his weight in run blocking because he’s the only one not directly responsible for any of those problem areas. It’s understandable that the rookie (Hernandez) and the veteran backup (Greco) aren’t perfect, but as for Solder and RG Patrick Omameh…it’s time to earn those paychecks you got during the offseason.
Make no mistake, the success of the 2018 New York Football Giants will continue to revolve around the offensive line and the defensive front seven. If those groups can step up, there is no reason not to believe that the G-men have a legitimate shot at coming back to win the NFC East.
The Eli Manning era isn’t over yet, but it will be over very soon if the offensive line keeps trying to get him and Saquon killed.