With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks
2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: 2017 was one of the worst seasons in the almost 100-year history of the New York Giants. No one escaped the carnage, including arguably the best quarterback in franchise history. Regardless of the extenuating factors, Eli Manning saw his numbers decline for the second year in a row. In comparison with his 2015 statistics, Manning saw a precipitous fall in passing yards (from 4,432 to 3,468), touchdowns (from 35 to 19), and QB rating (from 93.6 to 80.4). The Giants offense was 21st in yardage, 19th in passing yardage, and 31st in scoring. And it just wasn’t the numbers. Manning seemed off. Saddled with a poor supporting cast, he was jumpy in the pocket and missed too many open receivers.
But as bad as all of that was, 2017 will always be remembered for the year that Eli Manning got benched by his since-fired head coach who never really seemed to have his back. It was not so much the decision to sit Manning for an early December game when the team was 2-9, but the way he was benched. Ben McAdoo announced the decision matter-of-factly while John Mara and Jerry Reese hid. And a tearful Manning was left to address a frenzied New York press corps in front of his locker with teammates laughing in the background. Worse, the Giants did not use the benching to evaluate their 3rd-round draft pick, Davis Webb, but handed over the reins to persona non grata Geno Smith. Predictably, a pissed-off fan base erupted. What was astonishing was this reaction seemed to shock team brass who quickly kowtowed by firing Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese and re-inserting Manning as starter right after the Geno Smith-led Giants lost to the Oakland Raiders. The Giants then proceeded to lose three of their last four games and finish the year 3-13. In summary, the season was a shit show.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Unsurprisingly, the Giants made no effort to re-sign Geno Smith. The Giants passed on Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. But they did select Kyle Lauletta in the 4th round. The Giants also signed free agent Alex Tanney after the draft.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: For better or worse, ownership, the new general manager, and the new head coach have made it clear over and over again that the 37-year old Eli Manning is not only the established starter heading into 2018, but possibly beyond. So in a matter of a few months, Manning went from the bench to being untouchable. If one were being truly objective, it appears a bit odd that the New York Giants believe so strongly that a clearly declining, 37-year old quarterback on a 3-13 team has another Super Bowl run in him. Their evidence? The December 17th loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The pressure is on Manning. The Giants have changed an offensively-minded head coach for the second time in three years. They fired the GM. They brought in three new starters on the offensive line. They added a premier running back with the #2 pick in the draft to go along with Odell Beckham, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard on offense. The excuses are running out. Eli is a $22 million per year QB who hasn’t played like one in quite some time.
While Pat Shurmur is a West Coast Offense guy, his offense will be more vertical and use more play-action than his predecessor. The Giants will run the football more. All of this should help. Yet, in an era where teams are moving more and more to athletic quarterbacks, Eli remains a bit of an old-school dinosaur whose lack of mobility clearly impacts the overall offense. Manning must compensate with better toughness, pocket awareness, decision-making under duress, and accuracy. Can he shake off the gun-shyness and inaccuracy that plagued him in 2017? Can he get his mojo back?
With an inevitable transition looming – whether it be in one, two, or three years – comes the second major storyline: is the heir apparent currently on the roster? The contenders are Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta. Webb has the arm, frame, and work ethic teams look for. Lauletta lacks the arm and ideal height, but may have a better feel for the game. He also had the inherent advantage that he was drafted by the team’s new general manager and head coach. Both, one, or neither may have an NFL future. Can either really replace a living legend when the time comes? Or will the Giants rue the day they passed on Darnold, Rosen, or Allen?
ON THE BUBBLE: Barring and injury or the unlikely event the Giants trade Davis Webb, the Giants will go into 2018 with Manning, Webb, and Lauletta as the quarterbacks. Alex Tanney is simply a camp arm.
FROM THE COACHES: Pat Shurmur on Eli Manning: “He looks great. He’s doing great…He is a joy to coach… I’m always surprised at how smart he is and at how things, I don’t want to say come easy to him because he studies, but he has a great feel for the game and that great feel for the game is backed up by a heck of a lot of work, and so when you have that combination, a guy that can really see the game and then a guy that really works at it, then I think the sky is the limit.”
Shurmur on Davis Webb: “I think he has improved every day. I think he’s got an outstanding skillset. I mean, big, strong, can throw… He can run around and he’s gotten more and more comfortable with what we’re doing. So, he’s made steady improvements through this spring.”
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Kyle Lauletta: “He has a nice calmness about himself that if things don’t go exactly how they are drawn out on the board, his mind works pretty fast so far and he finds the next guy, gets through his progressions. He has a good feel for anticipation and touch and things like that, so I think he’s off to a good start. ”
PREDICTIONS: Eli Manning will always be a controversial sports figure. He’s a legitimate two-time Super Bowl MVP who played at an elite level during two miraculous playoff runs. But take away those two runs, and his career looks more mundane and based on longevity. Most Giants fans will long wonder what could have been had the Giants personnel department (exacerbated by a series of career-impacting injuries to key players) not squandered his years after 2011. But Eli is responsible for half of the team’s Super Bowl hardware. Period. And for better or worse, and whether or not the motivation is based on guilt or fear of fan reaction, the Giants hierarchy is going to give him another chance in 2018 and probably 2019, the latter being the final year of his current contract.
My best guess is that Eli rebounds with a strong season in 2018, but one that still causes fans to debate whether the team is foolishly postponing the inevitable by not making the quarterback transition sooner. My wish is that he proves us all wrong and has one more magical run in him with the Giants. At the very least, he will have an opportunity to finish his Giants career on better terms than 2017.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta