Eli Manning is entering his 15th season in the NFL— all for the New York Giants — in 2018. Last fall, Manning was inexplicably benched for Geno Smith, snapping his streak of 222 consecutive starts (including playoffs), only to be inserted back into the starting lineup the following week. That buffoonery, along with a myriad of other reasons, cost former head coach, Ben McAdoo, his job.
Regardless of how bad Manning was at times last year, he never should’ve been benched for Geno Smith. Manning’s biggest problems last year had to do with his supporting cast. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s season ended in September, veteran free agent acquisition Brandon Marshall missed most of the season, while receiver Sterling Shepard also missed five games. For a good portion of the season, Manning’s only reliable weapons were a pair of youngsters: second-year receiver Shepard and rookie tight end Evan Engram.
At times last year, Manning was throwing to rookie free agent Travis Rudolph and Roger Lewis. Yet, Manning still managed to complete almost 62 percent of his passes for 3,468 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The 19 touchdown passes were the second-lowest total in Manning’s career since being named the full-time starter, not counting his rookie year in which he took over the job midway through the season.
After an offseason where new general manager Dave Gettleman added pieces on offense for Manning, there’s reason to believe he could have a career renaissance at age 37. First, the selection of Saquon Barkley gives Manning a legitimate weapon out of the backfield for the first time in years. Barkley is a phenomenal talent who can take over games either carrying the football or as a receiving threat. Think Le’Veon Bell. Barkley has those types of skills.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) July 28, 2018
Barkley’s presence on offense takes pressure off of Manning. The Giants should be able to run the football on first and second down so Manning shouldn’t be facing third-and-long situations so often.
The additions of left tackle Nate Solder from the New England Patriots left guard Patrick Omameh and Will Hernandez via the NFL Draft, giving the Giants a talented and rebuilt offensive line. Gettleman allowed former starters, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, to walk. Richburg will be replaced at center by Brett Jones.
While Jones may not be an immediate upgrade over Richburg in the middle, Solder and Hernandez are clear upgrades at two of the most important positions on the offensive line. The Giants paid Solder like a franchise left tackle and expect him to keep Manning upright. Omameh is a solid run-blocker at left guard, while Hernandez is a mauler who could go to the Pro Bowl early in his career.
Manning finally doesn’t have to depend on a former first-round bust, Ereck Flowers, to keep him clean. Flowers is competing to be the starting right tackle after a tumultuous offseason that saw him skip a portion of offseason activities.
Finally, there is new head coach Pat Shurmur. After a stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12, Shurmur went back to the Philadelphia Eagles as offensive coordinator where he spent three seasons under Chip Kelly. Shurmur spent the past two seasons in Minnesota and was a big reason the Vikings were so successful on offense last season with journeyman Case Keenum under center.
The Vikings cycled through quarterbacks during Shurmur’s two years due to injury. When Keenum took over, Shurmur simplified the offense, relied on the running game even after the departure of prized rookie back Dalvin Cook due to injury. Keenum and running back Jerick McKinnon both had career years under Shurmur and each cashed in this offseason.
Shurmur’s style of offense is more suited to Manning than McAdoo’s offense. McAdoo had more of a true West Coast offense relying on short and intermediate passes, where ball placement was essential. For Shurmur, his roots are in the West Coast offense, too, however, he’s more adaptable. He realizes Manning is more of a downfield thrower and with Beckham at his disposal, you’ll see the Giants take more chances down the field than in recent years.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 27, 2018
Manning isn’t the same player he was early in his career. He’s not washed-up either. With a host of talented options around him and coach who is smart enough to adapt to Manning’s skills, there are many reasons to believe he’ll have a bounce-back season in 2018 and could have the Giants back in the playoffs.
There’s a reason Shurmur and Gettleman decided against taking a quarterback with No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. They believe Manning still has a lot left in his right arm. If they’re right, they could win big, but if they’re wrong they could be out of a job two years from now.