What'll get lost in the smoke cloud is the numbers Eli Manning amassed Sunday night.
Manning threw for a mind-numbing 450-yards and four scores on 27-of-42 passing in the loss. He showed good mobility in the pocket, and picked up right where he and Victor Cruz left off last season. The pair connected on three touchdowns, including a 70-yard hook-up that beat Will Allen on a blown assignment.
Obviously there's a lot to be concerned with following the loss, but Manning proved he still has plenty in the tank.
As he rifled it around the field, his receiving options proved to be better than they've ever been. Three wide-outs went over the century mark, and although only Cruz found the end zone, Hakeem Nicks seemed healthy, and Rueben Randle seemed capable of a bigger role.
While the numbers are nice, they don't tell the whole story.
Manning missed multiple receivers all over the field, overthrowing some, and anticipating routes a bit too soon perhaps on others.
The preseason hinted towards Manning's inconsistent play, and it proved to carry over in to Week 1. Going against a secondary that features Will Allen, an injured Morris Claiborne, and Orlando Scandrick, should have yielded a much more productive game than three interceptions and a loss.
Speaking of interceptions, the turnover monster reared his ugly head once again with Manning on the field.
Eli has long had an issue with turning the ball over, and through the first week of the season, Manning is now tied with Brandon Weeden and Christian Ponder for most interceptions in the league. Those are not the names you want to be associated with if you're considered an “elite” quarterback.
On his third pick that came in the fourth quarter, Manning anticipated back up running back Da'Rel Scott to turn around sooner than he did, and resulted in a pick-six the other way. That sealed the game and the Manning bashing that took place on Twitter.
The Giants racked up six turnovers and were still in a position to win late in the fourth quarter. For as bad as Eli and the running game played, they still battled back and did enough to push the Cowboys to the brink of collapse. The G-Men will take on a potent and dangerous Broncos team next week, and will need Eli to cut down on the turnovers if they have any chance of getting to .500 this season.
Let's face it, what was supposed to have been the Giants strength this season, has proven to be a weakness throughout the games leading up to it. Eli Manning and his weapons have been out of sync on the field, and unproductive in the red zone.
“Why doesn’t this team draft a linebacker?”
That is a familiar refrain every Giants’ fan says every April, when New York Giants’ General Manager Jerry Reese often bypasses on drafting linebackers. Instead, Reese follows the mantra of picking the best player available.
While that line of thinking has paid off in many respects (hey, who could argue with two Super Bowl championships in six years), the Giants have never been able to bolster this unit from within the organization. Now that Michael Boley is gone, this is a unit that has a lot to prove, with options at the position that are all-too not exciting.
The Giants have drafted (or signed after the draft) some solid linebackers in the last few years, but none are game changers. These names include Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger.
Those names are bandied together with some retreads at linebacker that the Giants have acquired over the years, like Keith Rivers, Aaron Curry, Dan Connor and Kyle Bosworth. On Sunday night, it was announced that Curry has been released.
This current group of linebackers are a very uninspiring unit to say the least. They play soft; are not that aggressive and are poor at some of the basic fundamentals (especially tackling) of football. Perry Fewell’s job as defensive coordinator is that much harder when dealing with such a lackluster corps.
Quotes from Giants.com
“I think we’re working together as a linebacking corps very well,” said Fewell on August 13. “There is no standout. I think they worked together well as a group. I like the combinations that we use in practice and that we’ve used in the game and I hope we can continue to grow and build in that respect.”
I think Fewell is just trying to put a positive spin on things. There is no way he could be happy with this unit. For the Giants to be successful this year, it has to get the most out of its defense. With injuries in the secondary (Stevie Brown, Antrel Rolle) and on the line (Jason Pierre-Paul), the linebacking corps is susceptible to being exposed.
So, someone has to take this unit to task, as the play so far in the preseason is not exactly ensuring anybody’s confidence. The Giants have roughly two weeks to get this group in gear.
Will that be enough time?
Perhaps what you might see, is the Giants look for help at linebacker after every team gets down to its 53-man roster.
Clearly what we have is not working.
Dan Stack | Featured Columnist