Marked Improvement as Eli Nears 16th Start

With a 5-2 mark through his first seven starts this season, quarterback Eli Manning has probably surpassed the wildest dreams of the Giants coaching staff and organization. Considering he only won one of his seven starts in 2004, it's safe to say that Manning has improved by leaps and bounds, all before he's even notched 16 career starts

Let's take a closer statistical look at how far Manning has come in such a short period of time. Last season, as he started the team's final seven games, he finished with a QB rating of only 55.4. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes (95-197 for a 48.2 percentage) and threw for only six touchdowns while tossing nine interceptions.

This season, through his first seven starts, Manning's numbers were much better. While his completion percentage was only 51.1 (115-225), he had 13 TDs to go with only 5 INTs and his rating of 83.6 was close to 30 points higher than his final figure last season.

After Manning fared pretty well in his first career start against Atlanta last season, his struggles the next three weeks were almost unbelievable. Against the Eagles, he completed only six passes and threw two INTs. The next week, he was only able to muster 113 passing yards in Washington. He followed that up by hitting rock bottom in Baltimore, as his QB rating for the game was 0.0.

He bounced back in a big way the final three weeks, finally ending the club's dreadful eight-game losing streak with a three-TD evening to top the Cowboys in the season finale.

After missing most of this preseason with an injury, and struggling some in the first two weeks (3 TDs, 2 INTs), Manning finally got untracked in Week Three in San Diego. Facing as hostile an environment as he'll likely ever see, Manning threw for 352 yards and a pair of TDs. He followed that up with 296 yards and four TDs as the Giants hammered the Rams.

He struggled more often than not during the next three weeks, but the club posted a 2-1 mark as he led late-game drives in Dallas to force overtime and to beat Denver the next week.

With Manning only a week away from recording his 16th career start, his total numbers through 14 games showed him going 210-422 for a 49.8 percentage and 2,603 yards. He had 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Let's compare that to the first full seasons of a couple of recent Giants rookie signal-callers.

Phil Simms took over in 1979 and started the majority of New York's games that season. He was 134-for 265 (50.6) for 1,743 yards, 13 TDs and 14 INTs as a rookie.

He also started the majority of New York's games the following year. Simms' combined numbers for his first two seasons were 327-667 (49 percent) for 4,064 yards, with 28 TDs and 33 INTs.

More than a decade later, Dave Brown was another first-rounder that was handed the reins. Brown completed 201-350 passes (57.4) for 2,536 yards, 12 TDs and 16 INTs as a rookie in 1994.

While only a fourth-round pick, Danny Kanell was the next rookie to play quarterback for the Giants. In 1997, in his first full season as a starter, he completed 156-of-294 passes (53.1) for 1,740 yards, 11 TDs and nine INTs.

So, as you can see, Eli Manning is head and shoulders above his recent Giants counterparts. Sure looks like Ernie Accorsi knew what he was doing when he traded up for Manning.

Behind enemy lines

Both 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and linebacker Julian Peterson have been very impressed with the play of Eli Manning this season. Here's what each had to say about Manning during conference calls with the New York media last week.

Mike Nolan: "His maturity from a year ago. He's matured quite a bit. You can tell that he spent an offseason getting better. He certainly learned a lot last year, but he's gotten a lot better. I know the time he spends with his brother is extremely helpful because his brother has got a lot of wisdom in the way he plays. He shows better poise in the pocket. I would have to say that in his eyes, the game has slowed down, which is – I haven't heard him say it, but I would guess that's something. And that's a great thing when a quarterback can say the game is slowing down a little bit for me and it's an easier game. He's always had talent and he comes from great pedigree as well. He's a good quarterback. He's just going to get better with time."

Julian Peterson: "You have to give your props and tip your hat to Eli Manning, who's been playing great, considering last year when he had a rough little start. But, he's doing great. I just see that his awareness has gotten a lot better. His progressions have gotten a lot better just looking down the field and what to expect as far as who's covered and who's not and what type of zone it is. You can tell he knows the game a little bit better now. It seems like he's been doing a lot of studying with his brother and it's paying off for him. But, still at times you can get him rattled. When the pressure gets to him a little bit, he kind of looks at the pressure first and then decides to throw where he has to throw."

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