Of course there's the sloppy, unpredictable Eli that looked so awful in parts of two of Big Blue's final three games last season. Then there's the smart, patient, accurate version that rallied the Giants down the stretch and ended up snatching the Super Bowl XLII MVP award. If the first weeks up in Albany are any indication, New York fans can rest easy. Manning has looked night and day better at this point in camp than he did last year at this time. He's showing so much more poise, better decision-making and much better accuracy on the UAlbany practice fields. Obviously the live bullets haven't yet started to fly for Manning and his offensive mates, but it sure appears as if he's readying himself for a strong start to the season.
Will Carr emerge as Eli's caddy?
If you judged former top overall pick David Carr by his first week in Albany you'd say he won't even make it out of training camp, let alone to the opening-night roster. However, of late he's started to look much better. We're still seeing some inconsistency but it appears as if he's got a much firmer grasp on everyone's assignments than he did from the get-go. He has a very smooth release and has uncorked some beautiful passes that make you realize why he was chosen so high six years back. But he also lets fly with some very questionable throws and shows some hesitancy that make you think that he's still shell-shocked from the early years of his career when he was sacked about every third time he attempted to pass. Anthony Wright has looked better and better in Albany, but there's no secret that this is Carr's job to lose. If he continues to progress at the rate he is now, by the end of camp, he'll be Eli's r ight-hand man and Wright will be heading elsewhere.
Can Andre' make any significant progress?
TGI asked Tom Coughlin during camp's second Sunday if he's seen enough progress from sixth-round pick/project Andre' Woodson. Here was his reply: "He's going to just have to play in practice. Early on, when we only had three quarterbacks working, he was getting plenty of snaps, but now his snaps have slowed down a little bit. It's difficult for a young guy to just have a couple of snaps and be able to show exactly what you can do. Hopefully that will work itself out."
Needless to say, in a roundabout way, Coughlin's answer was no, but be patient. We're certainly not going to be too critical of someone who threw for 9,360 yards and 79 TDs in the very tough SEC, but we'd be lying if we said that he's even anywhere near close to performing at a solid level so far. His accuracy has been way off as he continues to learn the offense and his receivers.
Will they be better in '08?
The thought here is yes, even though it's going to be difficult to improve on a Super Bowl championship season and a terrific postseason campaign. Manning is definitely capable of much more consistency than we've seen the last few years and he's likely going to show it this season. The fact that he's being backed up by a much more talented guy in Carr can only help the situation if Manning were to succumb to injury. Fortunately for everyone involved (jinx alert), Eli's been able to start 55 consecutive games with the Giants. It's going to be very hard to improve any more than just marginally, but ‘wethinks' Manning and his QB crop will do so.
Strength of unit: Eli has grown into being the Man and so far he's shown no signs at all of taking his foot off the gas pedal. His mental makeup, which has so often been criticized, is the key to his success.
Weakness of unit: We're nitpicking here, but so far it's been the disappointing start to Andre' Woodson's career. But we're certainly not pushing the panic button just yet.
Key additions: Being able to add a former top overall pick to the QB stable in David Carr was just too good of an opportunity for Jerry Reese to pass up.
Key losses: Really no one, as it was the Giants decision to release Jared Lorenzen, who has landed on his feet in Indianapolis – for now.
Darkhorse: Even though he's a holdover, Anthony Wright was exactly the reason the Giants went after David Carr – to improve the level of play behind Manning.
On the spot: David Carr would likely have a pretty difficult time finding another employer in the near future if he's unable to unseat Wright as Big Blue's top reserve.
More TDs, please: Eli Manning has been amazingly consistent in the production department. In the last three seasons, he's thrown for 24, 24 and 23 touchdown passes. The Giants would love to see him approach 30 this year.
Be careful: On the flip side, Manning's interceptions have increased from 17 to 18 to 20 since 2005. The closer to 12 he can come in that department, obviously the better.
Can Eli Maintain Super Level of Play?
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