Four games do not a season make and don't forget last year he was 6-2 before he went into the tank in the second half of the season. So far we have seen some good signs and there is reason to believe he is moving toward becoming an elite QB – and not just an average signal-caller.
When we scout a quarterback, there are a few categories in which we measure all QBs. We'll run Eli through the ringer and see where, in our opinion, he grades out. We'll score him on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.
Arm Strength – This scouting point might be the most sexy, but least important. Many are enamored with the "big" arm. How many times have you heard that a QB has a rocket arm or a gun for an arm? While it is good to have, we've always pointed out that if arm strength were the key to greatness Browning Nagle would be in the Hall of Fame. Nagle, who played for the Jets, had the strongest arm we've ever seen. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have much else. Jeff George was another one with a great arm, but he was hardly a successful QB. On the flip side, Joe Montana is an example of someone who obviously fared just fine without having the strongest of arms. There are QBs with stronger arms in the league but Manning is certainly above average. He can make all the throws. He can get the deep ball there and he can throw the 15-20 yard out as well. Arm strength is not an issue for Eli. We'll give him an 8.
Accuracy – This trait is very important for a QB, and it is a factor that Eli has struggled with since he joined the Giants. In college he was able to get away with lazy footwork. He can't do that here. Most QBs have said the window to make a completion in college is often substantially bigger than it is in the NFL. Good footwork goes hand in hand with accuracy. This is where Manning has made the greatest strides. A lot of credit has to go to Chris Palmer for helping Eli get straightened out in this department. Very few times this season have we seen him get lazy with his footwork. He often used to throw off his back foot and not step into his throws. Nothing hurts accuracy more than failing to step into your throw. His footwork has been poor for so long that we need to see more of a body of work before we can declare that he has corrected this problem, but it is certainly improving. If he stays with it, it will be a major step toward him becoming an elite QB. We'll grade him at 5, but his trend arrow is definitely pointing upwards.
Leadership – There are two kinds of QB leaders. There is the vocal leader and then there is the type that leads by example. Obviously, Eli tends to be more toward the latter. He's not loud or demonstrative. He probably never will be, because that's not in his personality. For him to come off that way he would be a fraud, so it's better he continues to lead in his own way. Although he often times looks like he doesn't care that is obviously not true. The fire burns in his belly; he just doesn't show it that often. Truthfully, if he goes out and performs on the field his teammates won't care what he's like in the locker room. When he learns how to lead through consistency, he will be their leader. We do think he needs to continue to improve his body language. So far this year we haven't seen that "hang dog" look we've seen so often in the past. With Tiki gone, once Strahan is gone, this will truly be Manning's team. We'll give Eli a 4 in leadership.
Technical skills – We could have put footwork in this category, but since it is such a key component in determining accuracy we kept it in that category. In technical skills we are looking at things like release point. Eli's ball comes out nice and high. He doesn't throw from a lot of different arm angles, which is good. He has had some balls batted down, but we don't think it's a significant problem. He has a quick release. He carries the ball high and he keeps his elbow high, which are the preferred methods. He doesn't have a windup delivery. If you can remember Randall Cunningham, he had a long slow delivery. Carrying the ball high eliminates a lot of wasted motion. The other thing to watch with Manning is his drops. It doesn't matter if it's a 3, 5 or 7 step drop; watch how often his back foot hits the ground and the pass is thrown almost simultaneously. The length of the drop determines the length of the pattern. If the ball comes out when his back foot hits the ground, then we know he knows exactly where he is going with the ball. When he doesn't get lazy, Eli's technical skills are an 8. This is a good score, but he needs to keep working on it with Chris Palmer.
Field Vision – This plagues more QBs than you would imagine. Some coordinators have had to cut the field in half to help QBs with poor field vision. Vince Young was a classic case of this in college. Generally Eli's field vision is good. Yes, he can drive us crazy when we see a wide open receiver and he throws the ball somewhere else. Nothing is more frustrating. But every QB will fail to see open receivers. It's a fact of the game. What we hope is that it doesn't happen too often. We think Eli is improving, but he still needs to get better. We know when he has overlooked an open receiver by watching Plaxico and Shockey. Their actions usually let everyone know; we haven't seen a lot of that this season so far. We'll give Eli a 6 here.
Intelligence – Does the QB know and understand the game? Can he make quick and sound decisions in the heat of battle? We don't think this is a problem for Eli, based on his family background and the college coaching he received, mainly from David Cutcliffe. He knows how to study tape and he works hard at it. We will give Eli a 9 in this area.
Consistency – This one is perhaps the hardest of all to master. Can he do all of the above on a consistent basis? So far Eli has not been able to do that. We can't go into a game knowing that Eli will play well. Too often we still don't know what we will get from him. This doesn't mean that he is expected to win every game, but it should be expected that the QB will at least perform to a certain level. When Montana was in his prime, they knew he was going to give them a good game almost every time. Tom Brady and brother Peyton are consistent. Eli isn't there yet. We've seen good streaks and bad streaks. Until he becomes consistent he will be nothing more than an average QB. Once he becomes consistent we can begin to count him among the league's elite QBs. In overall consistency, we'll give Manning a 3.
Eli in Focus
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