Giant Tidbits Offensive Edition: A Look at Eli Manning’s Mental Processing


The Giants offense faced a tough Dallas Cowboy secondary, probably the best one the Cowboys have had in recent years. A combination of solid development from younger players (CB Byron Jones, SS/FS Kavon Frazier to name two), as well as addition of Kris Richard (DB coach) provided a stiff test for QB Eli Manning and the offensive unit. With the Giants loss, NBC commentators in game claimed that Big Blue was out coached on this side of the ball. Saving the run game and red zone for another piece, this week’s Giant Tidbits offensive edition takes a look at the quarterback play on Sunday Night. Giant Tidbits Part 1 dealt with the defense and alluded to not panicking as a fan base. Warning: this piece may lead to some panic or backlash.

Criticizing QB play at the NFL level has gotten to the point where 10 GIFs of incompletions or sacks with 2 lines of commentary per play is almost the norm. The position simply demands more, and film study often can get you many answers, or lead you to some very good questions (h/t @Dan_Hatman). Such was the case with Eli Manning on Sunday night, specifically his mental processing against the Cowboys.

In this first example, a 2nd and 13 late in the 1st quarter from their own territory, the Giants run outside zone play action with a 3 Level Flood Concept to the field. Manning moves a bit to his right from shotgun but he does not turn his back to the field as he would from under center. Please see below:

Manning is reading this route concept from high to low, and receiver Beckham running the deep out has a lot of space as he travels to the Turkey Hole. The concept gives 3 different options to attack 2 levels of defenders  and the vertical spacing is apparent. Why does Manning come off the deep read so quickly? Perhaps he is worried about the deep safety jumping the route, but when thrown in rhythm (as Beckham would be breaking outward), the window is there. The follow up on the sideline had to have been that against Cover 2, Beckham going to the Turkey Hole against deep safety Heath in zone is a good thing. This is an assumption but just save this idea for later.

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The next example brings us right back to last week versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that game, Dan Schneier and I (on Big Blue Banter Podcast) talked about attacking Cover 3 with deep over routes to the boundary lock side of the zone coverage. Manning attempted a couple of those throws last week( drop and a bad penalty negated), and here early in the second quarter we see it again:

Manning’s eyes immediately set downfield to Beckham running a go route into the deep third. He then quickly checks the middle of the field, to the bizarre deep mesh look where the deep over is crossing and the pick occurs. Is the deep over not in the read? In a normal Mesh Concept, it is a 5 player read which rarely gets to all 5 players effectively. If its not in the read (which happens), then the over route acts as a pick for Shepard’s crossing route and Manning would want to lead him to space. Either way, Manning comes off the read and checks down to Barkley to his right, all from within a very clean pocket.

Not all of these examples came from deep routes. In the early 3rd quarter after one of Manning’s better throws, the Giants find themselves throwing on 1st down out of 11 personnel, with receiver Beckham running a deeper hitch or curl. Please see below:

From the single high safety look before the snap to Beckham’s alignment outside the numbers, Manning knows he either has boundary-lock man coverage, or Cover 3 zone. He needs to make sure that throwing lane is secure, and Barkley’s swing route does exactly that. The flat defender is drawn to Barkley opening up the lane, yet Manning hesitates in the pocket, and then awkwardly short arms the swing route. Last week Super Bowl winning ex-QB Kurt Warner had commented that throwing short timing routes was not one of Manning’s strengths. This throw clarifies it a bit, that he displays hesitation  when throwing in anticipation to his best receiver. The result is just an incompletion but the hesitation is alarming.

The last example came in the middle of the 3rd quarter, on the first successful drive the Giants had Sunday Night. Much has been made about whether the Cowboys were in 2 deep safety shells before the snap or single high. We have highlighted examples with both, and charting the game showed the below:

With that context in mind, the play is run on 2nd and 10  out of a 3×1 Bunch Formation to the field (where the space is) against what is two high but to fans may look like single high initially. Please see the below video:

The late safety movement was highlighted, but it is a stretch to say that it really affected the read of a 37 year veteran with 2 Superbowl wins. As he looks first to the bunch side the vertical seam route by Engram acts as a perfect divide route splitting the two safeties. Beckham’s Buzz & Go does take time to develop, but absolutely perfect for Cover 2 coming from bunch. In fact, it is hard to imagine a better scenario. If this was man on this side, the route still has potential as the stutter step and acceleration plays into Beckham’s strengths as a route runner. This is a huge point in the game, where the Giants need a touchdown to get back into it. Manning needs to have the anticipation to adjust to the shifting pocket,, step up and throw to the team’s best receiver.

Angst in the fan base is at or near an all-time high, and one game does not make or break a veteran like Eli Manning. His mental processing, however, needs to be watched as this team continues through the first quarter of the season. This is not the end of the conversation on this, but Manning and the offense need to respond this week. Much is made of the line issues and they are absolutely warranted, but the Giants have to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Head coach Pat Shurmur’s play calling on 3rd down and the red zone left much to be desired, but there was a lot of opportunity left out there against Dallas. At this point, it is too soon to hit the panic button, but be wary of its location.