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
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Except for the one game he was benched in 2017, Eli Manning has started every game for the New York Giants since November 21, 2004. And despite the team’s poor record in 2018, Manning actually had one of his better statistical seasons, finishing with 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes. And his 92.4 quarterback rating with the fourth highest of 15-year career. That said, the offense, including the passing game, struggled mightily during the first half of the season before picking up steam in November and December. Seven consecutive years of shoddy offensive line play have taken a toll on the 38-year quarterback who appears a bit more gun shy and more of a game manager at this point of his career.
The developments behind Manning were more surprising. Davis Webb, who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was cut before the season started. Journeyman Alex Tanney, who the Giants signed in May 2018 after he was cut by the Tennessee Titans, surprisingly won the team’s back-up quarterback job, a role he played in 15 of 16 games. However, he did not see any regular-season action. Rookie 4th-round pick Kyle Lauletta disappointed in his only regular-season playing time and was also arrested in late October due to a serious traffic infraction.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The huge news was the selection of Daniel Jones with the #6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. For better or worse, Jones is the heir apparent to Manning. Eric Dungey was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent, but the Giants may view him more of a jack-of-all-trades type rather than traditional quarterback.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: The biggest story line for the entire team is obvious: when will Daniel Jones take over the reins? Jones has impressed this Spring. The prevailing opinion is that as long as Eli Manning is performing at an acceptable level and the team remains in contention, Jones will sit. In this likely scenario, not only does Manning have to play well, but so does the team for Manning to keep his job. If the Giants slip out of contention by October or November again, then “wasting” snaps on a 38-year quarterback on a rebuilding ball club would not appear to make much sense.
However, there are a couple of variables that could come into play. Ownership appears to be hyper-sensitive to Eli Manning’s standing with the team after their public relations-botched benching of him in 2017. Thus, there are those who believe that ownership will drag their feet on Eli being benched again. On the flip side, in his final press conference of the Spring, Head Coach Pat Shurmur surprisingly appeared to have left the door open to Jones possibly being the opening-day starter. Given the fact that Jones did not receive first-team snaps throughout the Spring practices, that does not appear likely, but again, that door appears to have been at least slightly (“You never know what is going to happen”) left ajar. In other words, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Jones performs better than Manning in the preseason.
The secondary story line is who will be the #3 quarterback? Normally, this is a very minor concern, but not this year. First, for the second year in a row, would the Giants give up on a relatively high draft pick quarterback after just one year? Davis Webb was let go after his rookie season. Would they do so too with Kyle Lauletta? Shurmur seems to like Alex Tanney and Lauletta has been slowed by offseason knee surgery. More importantly, this year’s #3 quarterback has a very good chance of becoming next year’s #2 quarterback.
ON THE BUBBLE: Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta are clearly on the bubble. In the unlikely scenario that Daniel Jones beats out Eli Manning before September, would the Giants consider cutting or trading him?
FROM THE COACHES: Pat Shurmur on Eli Manning: “Eli is getting ready to have a great year… We feel good about where Eli is. He is our starting quarterback.”
Shurmur on Daniel Jones: “I think he has had a really good offseason… I think he has had a really, really productive offseason. He is on track with the goal to be ready to play day one… He is on track.”
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Eli Manning: “I said a month ago, he looks in better shape than he was last year, I still think that. I think he’s really dialed in.”
Shula on Daniel Jones: “He’s got a fast mind, he picks things up pretty well. The things that you ask him to do to maybe make a couple changes, maybe that were different to what he was used to in college, he does pretty quickly. Whether or not its technique in the pocket, everything that we have asked him to do he’s done it pretty quickly. I think the other things is he’s pretty athletic and he’s very serious about his job. We all are but you see that maturity level in him. Which is obviously one of the reasons we got him here.”
Shula on Kyle Lauletta: “Kyle’s been great. We talked before and after the draft. As we all know in football and life whatever we are doing the only thing we can control is yourself. Just keep working on getting better and when you have your opportunity make the best of it. You can see with him, with his comfort level compared to this time last year and where he has come from. He’s got a lot better feel of our offense. He’s throwing the ball pretty well out there. We are just kind of easing him into some to getting some reps.”
PREDICTIONS: The most under-reported story of the Spring is that “the reach” Daniel Jones has impressed both mentally and physically. However, unless Jones clearly out-plays Eli Manning at training camp and in the preseason, it is hard to see him starting on opening day. But after that, all bets are off. This is no knock on Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and potential Hall of Famer, but Daniel Jones is the future of this team. Unless the Giants are poised for some miracle 2019 season, the sooner Jones plays, the better for the long-term interest of the team. If the Giants are out of serious contention by November, Jones should be starting by then. Be concerned if the Giants are 4-6 or worse and Eli is still playing after the bye.
An argument can be made that the Giants gave up on Davis Webb after just one season because he wasn’t the new regime’s guy. But that argument can’t be made about Kyle Lauletta. If the Giants cut him after just one season, that’s a pretty damning indictment of their scouting department. If the Giants cut Alex Tanney, would anyone pick him up? (I am suggesting he would still be available to the team if injuries strike).
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta
(The tough call here is Eric Dungey. He is an intriguing quarterback but his lack of Spring work at the position really puts him behind the 8-ball in terms of being a factor at quarterback in 2019. Dungey needs to flash as a jack-of-all-trades type this summer in order to make the squad).