New York Giants
Eli Manning: Week 3, at Carolina.
Curtis Painter: Week 3, at Carolina.
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Most of the time when a quarterback gets sacked seven times in a game (and six times in one half), it means that the quarterback is holding on to the ball too long or scrambling into the pressure or some other exhibit of poor pocket presence that makes his offensive line’s job ten times harder. And Eli’s mobility, or lack thereof, certainly wasn’t any help to a beleaguered Giants offensive line that didn’t seem to remember that games could begin in the early afternoon. On the other hand, though, Eli’s been slow as Fuddrucker forever and yet his brother’s the only quarterback who’s been conclusively better at avoiding sacks than him over the past three years. So what was going on Sunday that made one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack in the league suddenly sackable?
Four simple words adequately describe the Giants’ problems Sunday: pressure up the middle. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy were racing around the edges all day long on Will Beatty and Justin Pugh, but that doesn’t normally bother Eli – he knows the right way to avoid edge rushers is to step up in the pocket and let them race by him. Except Sunday, whenever he tried to do that, Star Lotulelei or Kawann Short would be pushing one of the Giants guards back into Eli’s face, giving no room to sidestep the edge rush and thus making him a sitting duck. It was exactly the sort of performance the Panthers undoubtedly dreamed about when they drafted Lotulelei and Short in the first two rounds this year and would make the team a very scary matchup for opponents if it weren’t for the fact that they’re not remotely capable of winning a close game.
Three of Eli’s inaccurate throws, meanwhile, came during his final drive when he said to himself, “Bleep it, we’re down 38, I’m throwing the ball downfield and seeing what happens.” He misread zone coverage for man on his lone interception by Melvin White, but otherwise was actually pretty good when he had a chance to throw the ball. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel after getting shut out, turning the ball over three times and gaining only 150 yards on offense, but the Giants aren’t going to get dominated at the line of scrimmage this badly again and really should be fine offensively the rest of the season. The defense may be another story entirely.
Cam Newton: Week 3, vs. NY Giants.
Cam had a remarkable small sample size second half, going for five-for-five for 111 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another. That performance after halftime took the spotlight off a shaky first half throwing the ball, where he had five inaccurate throws, took a fifteen-yard sack and tossed an interception on a deep out route where (oddly enough) he didn’t get enough velocity on his throw.
More distressingly, he appears to be standing even more rigidly and upright than ever before when he sets up to throw and hasn’t progressed mechanically the way you’d hope would after a legitimately great rookie season. He’s probably going to be one of the most dangerous short-yardage backs in the league until he retires, so his prowess as a runner definitely makes him an above-average quarterback overall. He certainly hasn’t scratched the ceiling on his potential as a passer, though, and so far 2013 hasn’t looked like the year he’s going to do it, either.