With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks
2014 YEAR IN REVIEW: Largely lost in the disappointing 6-10 season and the Odell Beckham hype was the fact that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning experienced a renaissance in 2014. Approaching his mid-30’s and coming off arguably his worst season in the NFL in 2013, Manning rebounded with one of his best seasons in 2014. Indeed, had it not been for a dreadful 5-interception game against the San Francisco 49ers in November, Manning would have thrown only eight picks all season – his lowest ever in the NFL. His success was even more impressive when you consider he was coming off April ankle surgery that limited his offseason work, had a new offensive coordinator and position coach, was introduced to a radically-different offensive system, and lost his security blanket Victor Cruz early in campaign. Before the season, many said Manning was washed up and the team should move on. By season’s end, those thoughts had largely disappeared. Of all of the Giants’ personnel problems, the quarterback position is not one of them.
It originally looked like Ryan Nassib was going to have an up-hill fight for the #2 quarterback spot as the Giants had re-signed 2013 #2 quarterback Curtis Painter and had added quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Rusty Smith in free agency. But Freeman and Smith didn’t even make it to training camp, and Nassib clearly out-performed Painter in the preseason, completing 44-of-74 passes for 588 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions (107.3 quarterback rating). Nassib not only earned the promotion to the #2 spot, but the team was comfortable enough with him to cut Painter and only go with two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants signed street free agent Ricky Stanzi in January.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Entering training camp, Eli Manning seems comfortable, confident, and healthy. He worked hard at improving his arm strength in the offseason and his coaches and teammates have noticed.
“Yeah, (his arm) is lively, very lively,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin in mid-June. “He has worked hard on that.”
“I would definitely agree with you on that,” said wide receiver Rueben Randle. “He overthrew me twice and I don’t ever recall that happening. That is something we noticed down at Duke working with him. We noticed that his arm got stronger and that is exciting for us.”
But more important than the increased arm strength is that Manning appears ready to take the next step forward in Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo’s quarterback-friendly system. Combine that with talented targets such as Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, and Shane Vereen and Eli may be primed for a really big year.
“Eli is a lot quicker at this point in time in getting everything going and getting everything moving,” said McAdoo. “Eli has put a lot of time and effort into his footwork and his training there and to his upper body and his strengthening and maintenance in those types of things. I like the look in his eye right now.”
“I think he is gaining confidence in what we have asked him to do fundamentally in the system and in the communication that happens in the meeting rooms and is carried on to the field,” continued McAdoo. “He is on the same page with his receivers, his tight ends and his backs. He is working well with the center and the o-line. I think being in the second year of the system helps.”
ON THE BUBBLE: Barring something unusual, the two quarterbacks will be Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib. Ricky Stanzi is a camp arm.
FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Mike Sullivan on Eli Manning: “(He) is a lot more comfortable, perhaps, and certainly healthy and we have had a chance to get rolling, but I agree he is definitely throwing the ball well and it is exciting.”
Sullivan on Ryan Nassib: “He is a guy who is a very hard worker. He is a grinder and he is a gym rat and is someone who is very conscientious. He came from a similar type system in college, so he didn’t really have to unlearn, if you will, as much. I am very impressed with his work ethic, his competitiveness and how intelligent he is. He has been really trying to focus on the little things that can get his release a little faster. He is very conscientious about that, “Hey, I can just keep the ball a little bit higher.” He understands the reasoning and timing behind things in terms of not wanting to be too slow with his feet or having an elongated release and just a very bright and competitive player. In the meeting room, he is someone that Eli relies upon. I got the sense early on that those two guys really respect each other and you look at a guy like Ryan and I am excited to see how he is going to perform in these games in the preseason, and he is just a really competitive kid.”
PREDICTIONS: To date, 2011 was clearly Manning’s best pro season. Fans forget that team was 32nd in rushing and 27th in defense. Manning practically single-handily willed that team to a 9-7 regular-season record. It was a league MVP-type performance with six 4th-quarter comeback victories (and two more in the post-season).
Provided Manning stays healthy, Eli will be in serious contention for his first league MVP award. Once again, he will carry his team to the playoffs.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib.