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07 Sep 2007

TDZ: Eli Overloaded

by Mike Tanier

There are more than 30,000 offensive plays in a typical NFL season.

Last year, teams executed 16,392 passes and 14,450 running plays in the regular season and playoffs. There were 1,161 sacks, plus some fumbled snaps and other oddities that don't fit neatly into any play category. Every offensive play is also a defensive play, so NFL coaches and coordinators made well over 60,000 calls last season.

Each offensive and defensive call consists of numerous components. Offensive and defensive coaches must determine formations and personnel groupings. Offensive coordinators devise and integrate pre-snap motion, blocking schemes, route combinations, read progressions and other details. Defensive coordinators implement coverage schemes, blitzes and stunts, among other tactics. Quarterbacks, centers and middle linebackers or safeties adjust their coaches' calls before the snap. Once a play starts, 22 players must react to what they are seeing on the field, improvising on the fly while doing their best to stick to the script.

So it's no exaggeration to say that an NFL season involves one million decisions. And talk-radio callers criticize every last one of them.

Few football analysts watch all 30,000 offensive plays (I don't). No analyst can watch each play carefully enough to truly evaluate each player and decision. Teams have whole scouting departments to do that sort of work. The best that most of us can do is to watch lots of game tape, pausing and rewinding at the key moments that tell us something about the teams and their players. Careful scrutiny, combined with a healthy dose of statistical analysis (think DVOA), can unlock many of the NFL's secrets.

Welcome to the new Too Deep Zone, a bi-weekly attempt to unlock a secret or two about what teams are doing to win games. Every other week, I'll diagram a play or two and focus on a particular element of strategy: a formation, a route combination, or some other minutiae. Think of the new TDZ as a supplement to your favorite x-and-o heavy television show, a detail-oriented preview of an important upcoming matchup.

With 60,000 plays and about a million details to choose from, my challenge will be to select the most meaningful plays to discuss. To do that, I'll do what I have always done: Record and watch lots of football in search of "eureka" moments.

Eli Takes the Heat

One such eureka moment occurred as I re-watched game tape of the Eagles' Week 15 victory over the Giants. With 22 seconds left before halftime, Eli Manning threw a four-yard pass over the middle to Tim Carter. The play itself didn't have major game implications; the Giants called a timeout after the play and kicked a field goal to end the half. But something on the game tape struck me: Before making the catch, Carter, a wide receiver, got tangled up with Darren Howard, an Eagles lineman. What was that all about?

Closer inspection revealed that the Eagles zone blitzed on the play (Figure 1). Their pre-snap formation was unusual: There were four down linemen in the game, but one of them (Juqua Thomas, 75) lined up at middle linebacker. Cornerback Sheldon Brown (24), covering receiver David Tyree on the left side of the offensive formation, crept up before the snap to blitz (some players aren't shown in Figure 1 for clarity). At the snap, Brown and linebacker Omar Gaither (96) blitzed the offensive left side. Thomas also blitzed, starting to his right and then looping to his left. Howard (90) jab-stepped as if rushing the passer, then retreated into the hook zone. He nudged Jeremy Shockey (80) as the tight end ran his route, then positioned himself to engage Carter on the shallow drag.

Figure 1: Eagles' Second Quarter Blitz

That explains what Howard was doing covering Carter. But why did Manning throw to Carter? The simple answer -- Howard versus a receiver is a mismatch -- is unsatisfactory because Howard was all over Carter when the pass was thrown. Furthermore, Carter was on the right hashmark when he caught the ball. He was in no position to get out of bounds, and he had to dodge Howard before he could turn upfield. Carter did escape Howard, but he was still running laterally when Brown and Gaither caught up to him for a four-yard gain. The minimal gain wasn't worth a spent timeout. So what was Manning doing?

There are two possibilities. One is that Manning made the correct read but rushed the throw. Had he waited another second (the line picked up the Eagles' blitz well), Carter would have been clear of Howard and in position to turn upfield or race to the sidelines. The other possibility is that Manning misread the blitz and lost track of Howard. He assumed that Carter was uncovered once he disengaged from cornerback Lito Sheppard and that the receiver could cut upfield for a substantial gain. Either way, Manning made a minor mistake, one that didn't hurt the Giants much.

As I watched the rest of the game, I realized why this was a eureka moment. The Eagles held a 29-22 lead with 2:57 to play in the fourth quarter when Manning and the Giants got the ball on the 20-yard line following a kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, Manning was hit as he threw a wobbling pass into the flat for Tiki Barber. Trent Cole caught it and raced 19 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. The Eagles' defensive call on that play: a zone blitz, with Brown and Gaither rushing the passer while a defensive lineman (Cole instead of Howard) dropped into coverage.

Figure 2 shows that the Eagles executed a different blitz than the one they used late in the second quarter. They attacked the offensive right side, not the left. They deployed a four-man front instead of the three-man look they used earlier. Still, the similarities are striking. Cole (58) jab-stepped and dropped into a zone, this time the flat zone on the offensive left side. Thomas, now at left end, took a wide release, allowing Brown and Gaither to attack the gap between the right guard and tackle. The Giants line, which did a tremendous job against the second quarter blitz, whiffed on this play. Brown reached Manning unblocked. Thomas was just a step behind him. Barber and left tackle Bob Whitfield blocked no one on this play. Manning or his center didn't call the proper pass protection adjustments.

But Manning made another mistake. Facing a hard blitz from his right, Manning tried to look and throw left. His pass appeared to be to Barber, though Manning said after the game that he was trying to hit Plaxico Burress (not shown) on a hitch route. Either way, he blew the read. Figure 2 shows David Tyree running a flat pattern to the right sideline. With Brown blitzing, Tyree is uncovered on this play. He's the likely hot read in a blitz situation. Tyree probably would have gained seven or eight yards and gotten out of bounds, a favorable outcome considering the game situation. Instead of a few yards and a stopped clock, the Giants got a batted pass, an interception and a touchdown.

Figure 2: Eagles' Fourth Quarter Zone Blitz

The eureka moment clarified Manning's 2006 struggles. We all saw Manning throw some critical interceptions and miss some receivers badly last season. We also saw plenty of great throws, and we've all been deafened by mass media rhetoric about him, right up to two weeks ago when Tiki Barber sounded off. It's easy to caricature a player who is under so much scrutiny, pigeon-holing him with an easy label ("first-round bust," "not a leader," "lacks swagger") instead of focusing on his real strengths and weaknesses. After reviewing the Week 15 game tape, I have something specific to focus on: Manning's decisions when faced with an overload zone blitz. If he can correct the mistakes he made against the Eagles last season, he can go a long way toward fulfilling his potential.

Now you have something to focus on, too; instead of wondering whether Manning's teammates chuckle when he gives a pregame speech, you can watch for one-sided blitzes and dropping linemen. Whether you are a Giants fan or just a casual observer, it is sure to make the game a little more interesting. That's really the goal: Learn a little bit about the game, increase our (yours and mine) appreciation of the subtleties, and get a little bit smarter, one eureka moment at a time.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 07 Sep 2007

57 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2007, 12:17pm by Pete

Comments

1
by i don\'t want to (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 5:46pm

Good article, i'm wondering if manning is worried that if he steps into the overload blitz to make a throw, the chance of the free man either tipping the pass or hitting him and causing a fumble, is making him throw the opposite way. Either way wouldn't a audible to a tiki barber run towards the dropping lineman be the best call?

2
by JasonK (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:03pm

Despite the painful memories of watching Bob Whitfield trying to play left tackle in 2006, I enjoyed the article. The logical follow-up question, though, is what happened when these two teams played each other again 3 weeks later? Certainly, Philly must have tried this tactic again, having used it to such success in the earlier matchup. Although the Giants did use a much more run-oriented offense in the Wildcard game, so maybe the Philly D didn't get as many chances.

3
by Baraka (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:08pm

"After reviewing the Week 15 game tape, I have something specific to focus on: Manning’s decisions when faced with an overload zone blitz. If he can correct the mistakes he made against the Eagles last season, he can go a long way toward fulfilling his potential."

If he corrects those mistakes he can go some way towards fulfilling his potential. I'm sorry, but I struggle to believe that most, or even a particularly large proportion, of his problems can be directly traced to incorrect reading of overloaded zone blitzes.

Of course, going on about intangibles like leadership and poise is really just hot air from an analytical point of view, but watching Eli's whole career rather than just one specific instance would suggest that he has a big arm but isn't particularly accurate or consistent with it. We've all seen him throw 10 feet over the WRs head on plays where he has had time to set his feet and pick a target. He's hardly the first QB to have this problem, and not even the first to be selected #1 overall.

4
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:12pm

I'm not giving Eli a pass, but just the fact Tim Carter and David Tyree are running these patterns says a lot to me. If Mike Tanier had mentioned that Bob Whitfield was the starting LT, he's have to stop the article. I realize Tom Brady doesn't make these mistakes when he's playing with future Hall of Famers like "Wide Eyes", but Eli's no Tom Brady.

I think the article needed to compare to his reads in the first Giants-Eagles game. Considering the splits in his performance in the first 8 games versus the second 8 games, is there a difference in his reads and decision making over the two halves of the season? Otherwise, a very good article Mike.

5
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:17pm

I remember reading somewhere, not on a FO article, but one that they linked to in Extra Points, possibly (gasp) TMQ, that Eli struggled recognizing the zone blitz. This was back in 2005, and he's clearly not fixed the problem since then. I've always felt that Eli's biggest problem is he doesn't obsessively break down game film like his brother does.

6
by Gerry (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:31pm

I think B is correct; it has been my impression that our passing game has struggled against the zone blitz in the past two seasons.

And Baraka makes a good point-- Eli does still struggle with accuracy.

So you have a QB who has some difficulty making certain reads and has some accuracy problems. Despite this, he is average (2006 DVOA -1.1, 2005 1.8). The trend is flat, which is very troubling. Yet, the tease remains. If he is average with those flaws, then he could be well above average by fixing those flaws.

If only it was that simple.

It strikes me that if Peyton had been in the same situation, it would have eaten him up that he wasn't making the right reads, and he would have worked and worked and worked some more until he would get it right. Eli seems to work hard, but he doesn't seem to have the same compulsion towards needing to be perfect that his brother has. He's not his brother, and he never will be. But if he wants to step it up, he might try working as hard as his brother, even if he is already working hard.

7
by JPS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:33pm

What do people think the cause for Manning's overthrows might be when he has planted feet and sufficient time? I can't imagine that any QB with such a problem in college would have been picked. Does anyone know if any serious thought been given to some sort of psychological reason, a la the Yankees 2nd baseman a few years back (was the name Knoblach?)?

8
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 8:07pm

7: Yes Chuck Knoblauch was the former gold glover who couldn't throw from 2nd to 1st (same thing Rick Ankiel had, Steve Blass Disease)

Anyway, I wonder if the problems with Eli aren't so much him as their are Coughlin and the coaching staff. I mean it's not like Coughlin is regarded as a QB developer. Maybe a change of coaching style/staff would help (I know the Giants changed OCs last year). Or it could just be Eli.

9
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 8:27pm

Eli Manning had a 60.8% completion percentage in college, which was lower than both Rivers and Big Ben. Lots of people believe, including me, that he was only drafted #1 overall because of his last name, and he was drafted a round or two too early.

10
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 8:50pm

Just to save Chris the trouble:

Eli threw 48 touchdown passes in his first two years as a starter and blah blah blah obvious homerism.

Great article, Mike.

11
by Rocco (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 8:59pm

#9:

Manning also put up pretty good numbers in a tough SEC on a team with less talent than the teams he played against. There's a reason why SEC went from a 10-win team in Eli's senior year to cellar-dweller since.

Perhaps Eli's name helped him go from mid-first round pick to first overall, but even someone named Eli Jones would have gotten the attention of scouts. The talent is there. I don't understand why the Giants didn't call up David Cutcliffe and offer him bags of cash to be the QB coach in New York.

12
by Ryan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 9:21pm

yay for too deep zone, I'm always up for an article with play diagrams

13
by Rick (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 10:19pm

I happen to think that was a great article. As an Eagles fan, I couldn't care if Eli matures or goes bust (actually, I do hope he goes bust, but I doubt it will happen, though it has before - particularly with the Giants).

However, my personal opinion is that the Giants don't provide adequate QB coaching. Phil Simms was an aberration. The Giants have not, in the modern era, had a consistently good QB mainly because of coaching.

Living in NYC, I see more Giants games than I care to. I've seen them take some very good QBs and ruin them. Dave Brown, Jeff Hostetler, Danny Kannell are all examples of QBs who had great potential and wound up being discarded. Brown, in particular, had tremendous promise just washed away by particularly bad coaching. Heh...they drafted Philip Rivers and got rid of him.

I see Eli going the same way. Eli has tremendous potential. Is he Peyton? NO, but that doesn't mean he's bad...it just means he's different. But they shove him into a system that he looks completely uncomfortable in, and then complain that he isn't living up to expectations.

I attended the game in Philly last year, and was stunned at the difference between the 4th quarter Eli, as opposed to the first 3 quarters. Simple plays, simple routes, just get the ball down the field. He excelled. Sure, a few breaks went in the Giants favor (fumble by Westbrook, fumble into the endzone recovered, then lost, by the Eagles, Akers misses a gimme field goal, etc.), but Eli kept them in the game. And he can do it anytime they build a game plan that works for Eli.

Tanier's comments about work Eli needs to do are just small examples of how little things can help him improve ALOT. But I really doubt the Giants will do this stuff. Coughlin has his way of doing things, and let's face it...it's not particularly effective.

14
by Thomas (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 11:04pm

I have a few questions, sorry if they've been addressed before but I'm fairly new to this site.
1. shouldn't the offensive line, especially the center, take some blame for missing their assignments? If two guys are unblocked, that's not Eli's fault.
2. Can you make the diagrams larger and fit the rest of the players in? I'd like to see where they are...
Great article, great site, yada yada.

15
by Thomas (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 11:06pm

Just in case people think I'm an Eli defender, I don't even think he should be a starter in the NFL (nor should Tom Coughlin be a head coach). He throws off his back foot worse than Brodie Croyle.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 11:41pm

I attended the game in Philly last year, and was stunned at the difference between the 4th quarter Eli, as opposed to the first 3 quarters. Simple plays, simple routes, just get the ball down the field. He excelled.

That's because in the 4th quarter, Eli had the easiest reads known to man. I would've paid money to hear the OC's comments to him on the radio. "What play now, Coach?" "Just throw it to the 6'3", 200 pound guy who's being 'covered' by the guy half a foot shorter and 25 pounds lighter."

The simple plays, simple routes worked that quarter because the Eagles simply didn't have the personnel to cover them.

17
by EaglesFan007 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 11:45pm

The thing about Eli is that when he was in college, he was a real gamer. If you wanted someone consistent, very good but unspectactular, that was Peyton. But if you wanted someone for that last drive with the game on the line, it was Eli. He was like Elway in that regard. But it seems he's lost that for the most part, except maybe in games like against the Eagles when they are getting killed, nothing more to lose, and just let if fly. I saw a little of that in Harrington too. I think there's something to be said about the pressure to be perfect on some of these high QB draft picks just crippling them. May explain freezing up on blitzes, Knoblach disease, etc.. Eli went from being worshipped at Ole Miss to being parsed and then ripped at every turn. And on top of the tough fans and media in NYC, you have loudmouth attention whores like Shockey & Tiki. For his sake, I'd like to see him somewhere else, maybe Minnesota - a midwest town with talent on the lines and a QB friendly coach.

18
by BHold (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 12:46am

#13 - agreed, the offensive scheme has been awful for Eli up to this year, way too complicated for him and the recievers alike. Luckily, this year things appear to have changed. There are actually 3-step drops in the playbook and a number of seemingly 1-read plays. He has looked much much better this preseason in accuracy, footwork, and sensing pressure.

#17 - His late game drives are still very much there. In '05 he threw a TD to win the game over the broncos with seconds left. Had a late TD vs dallas to tie the game, but the defense lost it in OT. Had another late game drive to tie the game against Minn, but again the defense lost it in the final seconds on a quick drive. He had a late game drive for a TD to tie in up with Seattle and get them into OT. Then got them in field goal range 3 times only to have Feely famously miss all 3 kicks. Last year the Eagles game you mentioned. I feel I'm forgetting 1 more, but oh well.

19
by JasonK (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 12:57am

Pat,

You're absolutely right that Joselio Hansen & Dexter Wynn were among the primary reasons for the Giants' comeback in that game. But across all his games, Eli always seemed more comfortable and confident in the hurry-up offense than he was in the base set. Sure, the defenses always have something to do with it, but I've seen it in enough games against different teams that some of it has to be coming from him.

Somewhat related, completely subjective note: From what I've seen in the 2007 preseason, he looks much better when throwing on the move. I'm no expert on QB mechanics, but to my eyes, he seems more balanced while he's moving, instead of always leaning in the direction that he's going.

20
by Jon (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 1:10am

#9 Scouts don't go crazy over a guy just because of his name. Maybe you can say Roethlisberger should have went higher, but Manning wouldn't have been a third round pick if he wasn't a Manning.

The Giants haven't been known as a great offensive team over the years. Jim Fassel was highly regarded though. The man got production out of Kerry Collins for pete's sake! Dave Brown was the first Spurrier system QB, I cannot fathom how anyone would think he has an iota of talent in his body.

#15, sure he's been a disappointment, but shouldn't even be a starter in the NFL? Have you seen what some other teams are dragging out there? The Giants expected Peyton Jr. and got an average QB so far. That's bad enough as it is without piling on with the hyperbole.

21
by Jared Crocker (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 5:35am

Finally, diagrammed plays and analysis for fans interested in individual plays being broken down (you know,football) and not so much of a focus on personality. Most of the so called "analysis" of the game is daytime t.v. worthy chatter about things that don't have much to do with the strategy and joy of the actual game that is being played. LOVE IT! seriously. Also, how can so many of these former professionals turned announcers that have been around football all their life be so wrong when they actually do try to break down a defense or explain the strategy and motivation. It truly seems to me that for the most part they don't know. (I'm talking to you, Joe Theisman.) I mean, is John Madden keeping things really basic every year so that our puny brains won't get overwhelmed with too much information, or is that the extent of his football knowledge? That's called a fly route. That's called a cut block. Wheeee! Booom!
We're not all delicate newbies to football strategy that need to be coddled at Level 1. As I mentioned, playing football well into the pros is no guarantee that they understand many aspects of the game better than those who have never picked up a football. So it is truly refreshing to see the development of a site like this.

22
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 8:58am

If he'd been Eli Jones, Manning would have been a mid-late first round pick, maybe early second. Jay Cutler was a better prospect coming out of Vanderbilt, and he went early-mid first round. I don't see what's to dispute about this. Manning coming out of college was basically what he is now--good arm, decent mobility, 'gamer' reputation, shaky against the rush, poor accuracy. He wouldn't have been a third rounder or anything, but he certainly wouldn't have the crazy expectations being Peyton Manning's brother has given him.

But let's remember, too, he's the one who insisted on going to New York, not San Diego. That was the luckiest day of Phil Rivers' life (and, arguably, Ben Roethlisberger's, since if the Eli trade hadn't happened the Giants were going to draft him.)

23
by fiddycentbeer (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 9:36am

Nice diagrams. Thanx.

Not surprising the Giants got the first blitz blocked. They had as many as 6 to block 5.

'course, some of that depends on timing. If the RT waits on Howard, 75 has some kind of chance to get thru the B. His jab step may move both the OC and RG left. If the RG recovers, fine; if not, 75 is the RT's. Or he's late to Manning, which probably is what happened (there's a time factor to any play tho that's tough to get on paper).

Mainly, Fig. 1 shows 1 on 1: Tiki, LT, LG and OC on 4. We must expect a RB to block a DB.

The Q 4 blitz seems to be all but unblockable. If all 3 IOL take on the DT, then Whitfield has 3 guys. If the RG comes off for Gaither, or to bump off Brown, then he and Whitfield have 3 guys. Either way, 4 to block 5 except as the LT is alert to peel back.

So far as Eli is concerned. Appreciating that this is the NFL, still QB 101 says: throw where the blitz came from. That's Tyree, in the second case; first not shown...or i didn't find it anyway.

24
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 10:20am

Michael Lewis write an article (click my name) on Eli for the NY Times Magazine about three years ago that's really interesting; among other things, it goes into the decision to target him so strongly in the draft. (Unfortunately, you have to be a TimesSelect member or pay $5 to read it now.) I don't know how much Manning's last name weighed on his mind, but apparently Ernie Accorsi (then GM) scouted him personally and was blown away, particularly by some 4th Quarter heroics.

25
by Go Pats (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 10:36am

With regard to the 4th quarter blitz, let's ask: WWPD? What would Peyton do? He would have been at the line waving his arms like a chiken, reading the defense. I'm guessing that he would have read the blitz, then either changed to max-protect and hit the receiver on the side of the blitz (right), or more likely, knowing the colts, audibled to a draw up the center. I think this is a case of pre-snap mistakes and not as much post snap execution.

26
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 11:24am

"Eli Manning had a 60.8% completion percentage in college, which was lower than both Rivers and Big Ben."

Yes. But I have to imagine that it is easier to make completions against Miami (Oh)'s opponents with Miami (Oh)'s talent than it is to make completions in the SEC playing with Ole Miss' talent.

27
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 11:29am

"I don’t even think he should be a starter in the NFL"

That's just silly. Over the past two years, he has been a nicely average starting quarterback, which puts him better than about half of the other starting quarterbacks in the league.

The ONLY things that make Eli a 'bust' or a disappointment are 1) overly high expectations, and 2) the bounty the Giants paid to get him. #2 was caused by #1, and both have led to an amazing amount of Eli bashing to where he is bordering on being one of the most underrated QBs in the game among some fans while at the same time being one of the most overrated QBs in the game among the others.

28
by Rick (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 12:24pm

#18 - Thanks, I do think he's been in a lousy scheme (though I hope you're wrong about this year and it stays lousy!). I really don't think Eli will thrive under Coughlin or in the Giants organization. I could be wrong, but they just aren't good to their QBs.

#16 - if it were that simple, I'd have to say why weren't they doing that all game? Sure, there were a few plays where that happened, but it wasn't every play. And even a few of those "easy" passes turned into disaster. One was picked off, another fumbled (though recovered in the endzone by the Giants!). Seems there's more at work than just saying throw to the mismatch.

Frankly, that 4th Quarter was a mess for the Eagles. They looked lazy and uninspired. When they were blitzing in the first 3 quarters, they came hard and fast. Not so in the 4th - when they blitzed at all. And the offensive schemes the Eagles ran in the 4th were pathetic, leading to huge disparity in time of possession....tired D, simpler routes for Eli to look for = success.

I don't think Eli will have a better situation this year. He lacks Tiki, and Jacobs is no Tiki. He has limited effectiveness with an injured Plaxico and a coming off injury Toomer. Shockey's "catch it, drop shoulder to hit, then fall" approach to receiving will get them a few yards, but once he's the only target, his defenders will be all over him.

I don't know that this year, even with simplified plays, is the year Eli can make it work in his favor.

29
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 12:41pm

"Had he waited another second (the line picked up the Eagles’ blitz well), Carter would have been clear of Howard and in position to turn upfield or race to the sidelines"

If he had waited another second, maybe that Blitz doesn't get picked up and he gets killed, or the pass is tipped ( Like the 4th quarter blitz) etc.

1. How are you supposed to know that the DE is going to drop back into coverage before the snap? An audible run would have been nice, but the DE isn't going to tell you what he is going to do.

Eli has been inaccurate at times, but so was Donovan Mcnabb and those ground balls he threw his first few years.

The Giants were leading the entire NFL in scoring for much of the year two years ago when they won the NFC East. Eli isn't running some boring Trent Dilfer game manager type offense, he is having mixed success running a passing style offense.

How come Eli is already a "bust", while after 5 medicore years of Mike Vick people were still saying things like " he's stil young, wait until he " gets it". Eli has been the full time starter for 2 years. What if the Chargers gave up on Brees after 2 years?

We break down 2 plays of Eli with David Tyree, Tim Carter and Bob Whittfield blocking and draw some conclusions?

People will bash Eli into the ground, but then defend a guy like Byron Leftwhich, I don't get it.

30
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 12:44pm

27- He is an Eagles fan, of course he is biased. It wasn't Hansons fault that Trent Cole lost his cool and picked up that key 15 yard penalty. It also wasn't his fault that the Eagles blitzed the house on the last play of the game, and Eli made the correct read. It just softens the blow on all that money he probably lost on the game.

31
by BD (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 1:13pm

Re: 22

Umm... maybe the fact that there were 4 quarterbacks taken in the 1st round in 2004? Eli Jones probably would have been taken by Pittsburgh over Big Ben (although I admit that's debatable) but certainly Buffalo would have taken Eli Jones over Losman. JP was admittedly not their guy, and Eli was certainly more successful in college. There was no doubt he was a 1st round pick in 04, and probably in most years. Look where high profile QB's go in drafts historically.

32
by mattman (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 1:48pm

#16 - if it were that simple, I’d have to say why weren’t they doing that all game? Sure, there were a few plays where that happened, but it wasn’t every play. And even a few of those “easy� passes turned into disaster. One was picked off, another fumbled (though recovered in the endzone by the Giants!). Seems there’s more at work than just saying throw to the mismatch.

The mismatch wasn't there until Rod Hood got injured at the end of the first half. That forced Joselio Hanson onto the field on every play (Lito Sheppard was already out) and he was abused by Plax and Toomer as badly as I've ever seen a defensive back worked over in an NFL game. Once Eli figured this out, he was literally taking the snap and staring directly at Hanson on every play.

Of course that mismatch wasn't the only reason the Eagles lost/Giants came back. There were about 8 or 9 crazy things that had to happen for the Eagles to blow that game. But Hood's injury was, in my opinion, far and away the most impactful of those 8 or 9 things.

33
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 3:17pm

30: Yes, I agree the Bills would probably have taken Eli Jones instead of J.P. Losman after missing out on Roethlisberger. The Steelers... I doubt it. Cowher did not want Roethlisberger; he wanted Shaun Andrews, but he was overruled because--and here I'm fuzzy on the details, so if someone can either back me up or prove my memory incorrect, please do--someone with enough clout to overrule Cowher was in love with Roethlisberger.

34
by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 3:34pm

Wow. The stuff one learns in comments.

Peyton was unspectacular in college??!!

Tom Brady doesn't make stupid decisions when facing a zone blitz?!

I need to get some new eyes or something.

I don't know where I came up with that memory of Brady in the 2003 AFC title game throwing the ball right to Dwight Freeney dropping into coverage on a zone blitz.

35
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 3:37pm

Also, Eli was sacked 8 times in the first matchup. It was a tough road game at Philly, and the pressure was relentless. To ask him to " hold onto the ball another second" is MMQB.

Plax vs Hanson really hurts when you blitz the house and leave them 1 on 1 and Eli identifies it.

It wouldn't be the first time in the NFL you get a tall WR facing a short CB, but now we have the Eagles fans trying to take everything away from an amazing game.

36
by Paralis (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 4:21pm

How come Eli is already a “bust�, while after 5 medicore years of Mike Vick people were still saying things like � he’s stil young, wait until he � gets it�.

Except that Michael Vick was a top-10 QB in 2002, which is more than Eli's done. We can speculate that Eli's a poor fit for the Giants' system the way that Vick was for Mora's WC offense, but at least with Vick, there's data to back it up (not that his potential matters now, somewhat obv).

What if the Chargers gave up on Brees after 2 years?

They did. Remember the Doug Flutie thing? The Philip Rivers thing? Brees' first year starting was 2002.

FWIW, I agree with everybody above who points out that it's absurd to call Eli a bust. He's average, and in the NFL, average is pretty good.

37
by RMoses (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 4:28pm

How soon we forget the very unusual happenings during the first meeting between these two teams last season. Coverage personnel was not the problem that day. Tanier explains these phenomenon in the Philly section of PFP 2007. My guess is Jim Johnson had a "eureka moment" soon as Plaxico caught the "street ball" pass from Elisha in OT. Always disguise your blitz against Manning and the Jints.

38
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 4:33pm

When Sheppard and Brown are hurt, Hanson is the excuse for the Eagles, but when 3 D-Lineman and both starting corners are hurt for the Giants and they lose, they just suck.

Oh, and when C.Griffen and 30+ year old Springs and his injury history get hurt for the Redskins, their season is destroyed. If only they had Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, THEY would be the ones holding the Lombardi trophy.

35- Brees nearly had an MVP year in SD two years ago while Doug Flutie was working on his extra point drop kick.

39
by Paralis (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 4:39pm

35- Brees nearly had an MVP year in SD two years ago while Doug Flutie was working on his extra point drop kick.

You're talking about 2004, yeah? The year the Chargers used the #1 overall pick in the draft to take a quarterback?

Drafting Eli was exactly "[giving] up on Brees after 2 years." This being why Brees is a Saint instead of a Charger.

40
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 5:32pm

"Except that Michael Vick was a top-10 QB in 2002, which is more than Eli’s done."

Is it? Is being a top-10 one year and followed by two years not in the top 30 and then one at #25 and then another not in the top 30 really more than two years at #17?

I don't agree.

41
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 5:35pm

"FWIW, I agree with everybody above who points out that it’s absurd to call Eli a bust. He’s average, and in the NFL, average is pretty good. "

Exactly. Further, an average starter who rarely misses time is valuable.

Not worth what the Giants gave up to get him, but there have been worse trades in the annals of the NFL.

42
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 11:58pm

Re: 40

I agree that Eli is not a bust, but that was still an awful trade.

Even if Eli was a little better than Rivers, instead of being worse, it would still be a bad trade. The trade was a bust.

43
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 4:45am

#37: When Sheppard and Brown are hurt, Hanson is the excuse for the Eagles

Sheppard and Hood, and it wasn't just Hanson. It was Hanson and Wynn (who was the dime, and was forced into the nickel spot). And where did I say it was an excuse?

Here, let me make it easy for you. Andy Reid, what the hell were you thinking having only two corners able to match up with Giants receivers?!

If the Eagles had done nothing about that problem, I would've called them morons, and said they suck. I think the next week (or maybe the week after) they cut Wynn and signed Will James. Those same injuries in Week 15 or the playoffs wouldn't've killed the Eagles.

It should also be noted that Wynn was always a "dear God, I hope we don't have to need him" option. They brought him in when Reno Mahe/Lito Sheppard were both injured to be a returner/CB. They had cut him previously because he, well, sucks.

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 4:54am

Plax vs Hanson really hurts when you blitz the house and leave them 1 on 1 and Eli identifies it.

That was Burress vs Brown, and it was just a bad guess. That's all. That one play just doesn't matter. The game fell apart well before that, even though that was the killing blow.

The plays we're talking about are the seven or eight (!!) slants in the 4th quarter/OT that moved the ball down the field, 7-8 yards at a time. Look at the play-by-play: it's always one of Hanson, Wynn, or Shawn Barber (the LB in coverage).

If you watch the TV coverage, the announcer specifically says "they're just running the same play over and over, and the Eagles don't have an answer for it," and he was right. If you were able to get audio of me at the sports bar that game, you would've heard "Dexter Wynn die die die" (note: irrational hatred towards Dexter Wynn extends back to Super Bowl vs Patriots - wait, no, it's rational hatred, much like Patriots hatred for Two Time Super Bowl Winner Dexter Reid).

The Giants reading the blitz coming wouldn't've mattered if they hadn't been able to march down the field.

45
by ammek (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 5:42am

"That’s really the goal: Learn a little bit about the game, increase our (yours and mine) appreciation of the subtleties, and get a little bit smarter, one eureka moment at a time."

Linked is an interview with Brett Favre where he talks (from memory) about a TD drive against the Jags in preseason and the mental decisions he had to make along the way. Fascinating insight. No mention of retirement, lawnmowing, velocity or he-just-loves-the-game.

46
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 8:12am

"The trade was a bust."

Great way of putting it.

47
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 11:34am

38- Brees was an injury risk before the Chargers let him go, if he never got hurt, Rivers could have still been holding a clip board.

39- Vick hasn't even been able to make the playoffs in the last 2 years ( or stay out of jail), when he should be peaking in performance. Eli is 100% at making the playoffs as an opening day starter, in a real offense, not that college football offense Atlanta ran last year.

40- Eli has been " average" as a youngster, now give him time to mature.

48
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 12:03pm

46: Vick has not been better than Eli, he has shown that he can be better than Eli. There's a difference.

Anyway, you shouldn't be comparing Eli to guys like Vick. If you want to argue he's been a success you should be comparing him to the 'successes' in the top ten like Carson Palmer, Peyton, and Phil Rivers.

Eli is 100% at making the playoffs as an opening day starter

Yeah, leading an 8-8 team that collapses down the stretch and gets into the playoffs on a tiebreaker in an inferior conference is a sterling example of leadership.

49
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 12:13pm

"Yeah, leading an 8-8 team that collapses down the stretch and gets into the playoffs on a tiebreaker in an inferior conference is a sterling example of leadership."

Was Eli supposed to block for himself, catch his own passes, and then flip over to defense and rush the passer while simultaneously providing coverage deep? I'll admit, if he had done that it would have been a tremendous example of a leader stepping his game up.

Ryan Wilson's commentary in PFP was spot on. "...but Eli Manning is not the problem and Eli Manning is not the solution. All the improvement in the world won't allow him to block for himself. Manning won't be playing in the secondary, he won't be motivating the team in Tom Coughlin's place, and he won't be in the trainer's room keeping this team healthier than it was in 2006. Those are the issues that will decide if the Giants are competitive in 2007."

50
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 12:27pm

I think it's more likely that if Brees hadn't been hurt, he would have been franchised and traded. It might have brought the Smith-Schottenheimer power struggle to a head a year earlier, so Marty might have gone then too, but Smith was determined that Rivers would start in 06 regardless.

51
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 12:44pm

48: I think we are saying the same thing in different ways (or at least have the same meaning).

52
by EaglesFan007 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 1:14pm

33 - Peyton was an excellent college football player - probably deserved the Heisman his sr year. I would say "unspectacular" in that his stats were probably not as good as Danny Wuerffel's and like some of those eye-poppers from U of Houston or BYU or such. He also never beat Florida which is huge - doesn't make him lousy, like some people seem to think, but I believe it certainly moves him out of spectacular territory. I think it was Spurrier who coined the funny line "you can't spell Citrus without UT" (Peyton played in 3 Citrus Bowls while Fla played the big 'uns).

53
by Thomas (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 1:46pm

I stand by my "shouldn't be a starter" comment. Yes, there are worse quarterbacks, but when you couple Eli's attitude coming out of college with what the Giants gave up to get him, he's been terrible. If you watch Eli plays he doesn't seem to 1) have the mechanics, 2) be able to read many defenses 3) throw it to the correct receiver. It's not just other people who overrated him, he did it too with trying to dictate where he went. If Eli's last name wasn't Manning, the Giants starter would be named Lorenzen, or maybe even Roethlisberger.

54
by Rick (not verified) :: Sun, 09/09/2007 - 11:11pm

#29:
I'm an Eagles fan, too, but I do appreciate the game for what it is. I don't jump all over a player as the root of all that is bad with a team. It seems that, here in NYC, many people feel Philly fans are "idiots" because of the perception that they "feed on their own" when things go poorly. Indeed, they do at times. However, so do New Yorkers.
The utter and absolute dislike for Eli that I hear from co-workers is hilarious! These guys don't pay attention to anything except the won-loss column, and then attribute it all to one player - Eli. Eli is what got them to .500 (and over 2 years ago), not Coughlin. Eli is what helps keep the team competitive when Coughlin does his best to take it back to the Fassel era.

Now, as an Eagles fan, I'd be remiss if I said I never heard Eagles supporters say similar things about McNabb. Good lord, the aspirations I heard cast on the radio after today's loss to Green Bay were typical of the common fan. I'm sure when the Giants lose a game or two this year because of a return man's flubs, New York will be calling for Eli's head, too.

55
by Eli Manning: Shameless Self-Promoter (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:29am

Thomas, #52 - E.Manning 28/41, 312 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT (and the pick was Burress's fault). Care to rethink that 'shouldn’t be a starter' comment?

And he looked pretty good when the rush was in his face last night too. Tanier wouldn't have been able to write this article (and a great article it was) based on this week's game.

56
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:17am

If Toomer keeps his feet in bounds, Eli has 5 TD passes. Torry Holt or Marvin Harrison makes that catch.

Eli looked like a true stud out there. Derrick Wards stats looked good, because of 1 long run. Eli didn't really have a running game, they used the pass to set up the run.

Then I see guys like Tavaras Jackson get credit for a 60 yard pass after Adrian Peterson turns a 1 yard screen play into broken tackles and a long run.

How many teams could actually run a 4WR passing attack like the Giants last night, and make it work?

How many QB's can throw 4 ( really 5 TDs), over 300 yards, completing over 25 passes on the road with no running game?

Eli's stats were not padded with screens and dump offs, he was running a pro offense and making it work.

57
by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 12:17pm

Peyton Manning almost won at least 1 game in Gainesville. He was tearing up the defense, but UT did not have a running game (let alone someone to match Fred Taylor, I believe). As a Gator fan I started screaming for joy as the torrential downpour started. This was so bad that it made passing almost impossible and the Gators went on to win.

I think Peyton has always had slightly better mechanics as well as effort in preparation. I remember hearing how Peyton spent an exceptional time during the off-season and before games working with his receivers (including the RB's). I suspect that Eli is not quite as dedicated and may be quite as capable of reading these zone blitzes. I also remember that his receivers have been notorious for their lack of willingness to practice in the area. Achieving the relationship of Manning-Harrison is not accidental, but the result of much time and effort and extra hours of practice that I do not see from the Giants.