Analyzing Eli Manning's Thoughts on the 2019 Offense
Carlos Rodriguez @bigblueissues
In a recent interview, New York Football Giants quarterback Eli Manning, was asked if he felt like the offense could be better without arguably the best receiver in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr, no longer on the roster. Like typical Eli, he went to the team first route and suggested that it very well could. So since we are in a lull when it comes to any football news, let alone Giants news, I present my opinion on the matter (see the link below for Eli's quotes).
First off, I have to be honest and admit that I was opposed to the trade and even though the team received a substantial return, I just didn't believe that it was equal to the value they gave away. Since entering the league in the fifth game of the 2014 season, OBJ has been nothing short of electrifying, a "rockstar" on and unfortunately for Giants fans, off the field as well. The latter being, most likely the reason he will no longer be wearing blue on Sundays but I digress. The impact of what OBJ brings to the game isn't easily duplicated and when a team struggles to score points even with him in the lineup, it's hard to argue that they could be better without him in it. To be fair, the Giants haven't exactly delivered a top tier offensive line and prior to last season, the running game wasn't exactly something to get excited about either. Add that to a defense that was ranked 24th in terms of yards in 2018, the idea of "let's get Odell the ball and see what happens" just wasn't the formula for sustaining productive offensive output. With zero respect for the running game and knowing a defense could get to Manning with minimal pressure, opposing defenses could just sit back in coverage, double team OBJ and force someone else to beat them. For the most part, no one could and the struggles continued.
But alas, my fellow GMEN fans, the glimmer of hope the Giants are now resting their proverbial big blue hats on, is number 26, the most recent recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, Mr. Over 2000 All Purpose Yards himself, Saquon Barkley. Whether you wanted a QB or not in the 2018 draft, you'd be hard pressed to find a Giant fan who will deny the potential for greatness this young man possesses. I could go on about his abilities, but spoiler alert, my colleagues will showcase his talent real soon, and besides all you have to do is Youtube his rookie campaign and see how special this kid is. Even with a poor to average offensive line, he was able to produce ridiculous numbers and no disrespect to Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs, the Giants haven't a talent like this in the backfield since Tiki Barber. If Barkley stays healthy (please football gods), Tiki won't hold a torch to this kid. The scary part is that he still has room for improvement (see these tweets on how Saquon can take steps to improve in 2019).
With all that being said, those in Big Blue Nation who are of the mindset that the team can be better without OBJ, rely on the fact that in previous seasons, the offensive struggles didn't come with a productive backfield and if this offensive line is even mid tier, Barkley should be that much more dangerous. Additionally, for the first time in what seems to be since the Earth/Wind/Fire days, we have an offensive line that will give Manning time to read a defense. I could get on board with that train of thought, mostly because defenses must respect Barkley, his home run abilities and if the OLine is improved, they should provide Eli the time he needs to deliver the ball to the open man. However my fellow Bleeding Blue readers, this is where I believe the problem lies.
I'm not going out on a limb when I say Manning is not the same player he was during our Super Bowl years. To be completely honest, he's never been the most consistent of quarterbacks. Even in his prime he could throw four touchdowns one game and come back the next week and throw four picks. Of course I'm being facetious, but I won't go as far to suggest we are watching a fall from greatness either. Nevertheless, the Eli we once saw who was able to stand in the pocket and deliver a throw in the face of a collapsing pocket is no more. There were just too many examples this past campaign of him either not allowing a play to develop or just completely missing an open receiver, so his first option would be to "dump" the ball off (see some examples below).
Let's be clear, the problem isn't just Eli, because in football, more than any other team game, we all know it's never just one player that can hold a team back. In this case, besides the obvious weakness of the OLine, the complementary receivers, most notably Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, just never stepped up in OBJ absence in 2018. Yes, there were moments when these young men showed promise, but they have never been able to either stay healthy, in Engrams case, or consistent enough as for Shepard, to put too much faith in believing they can replace Odell's production (also don't forget Shep lead the team in drops last year). Now I won't deny during the last four games of this past season, the offense did appear to be more productive. A lot of that had to do with the improvement of the OLine and the fact Saquon just turned on another gear.
So am I implying that the offense can't be as good without Odell? Mostly. The possibility of equaling the second half results is present. With the addition of Kevin Zietler, an all pro guard we received in the Odell trade, the improvement of both left tackle Nate Solder and 2nd year guard Will Hernandez, the return of center Jon Halapio, all adds up to a vastly improved OLine. Saquon Barkley, if health permits, will only get better and the signing of veteran Golden Tate who I believe has plenty in the tank, will attribute to a productive receiving unit. But to suggest that you will better, by not having a potential all timer in the lineup, is just not a realistic scenario. Time will only tell which answer we will get in 2019.
Tags: Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Junior, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Kevin Zeitler, Golden Tate, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Tiki Barber, NY Giants, 49ers