At 35 years old, some might assume Eli Manning’s best quarterbacking days are well behind him. His former center Shaun O’Hara believes Manning still has some elite play left in the tank and will show it this season.
The NFL Network analyst lauded over Manning and his stable of weapons that features stud wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., as well as Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. Together, O’Hara believes Manning could be in store for his best season yet.
“I think Eli is poised for his best season ever,” O’Hara announced on Tuesday.
O’Hara’s statement might not be that far-fetched because it could be argued that Manning is coming off the best statistical season of his career. He set a career high with 35 touchdowns, threw for 4,432 yards, the second-best total of his career, and also completed at least 62 percent of his throws for only the fourth time in his career. His 7.2 yards per attempt average was merely average when looking at his career numbers, but the stats suggest Manning’s 12th season was among his best, if not the best.
It’s tough to say whether Manning will be able to top last season’s output. Obviously, age becomes an increasing factor as the years go by. There’s also no guarantee Manning’s weaponry develops into anything more than another OBJ show, similar to last season.
Beckham caught 96 passes for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. The next leading receiver was actually running back Shane Vereen, who reeled in 59 balls last season. Rueben Randle quietly caught 57 passes and eight touchdowns, but he’s now with Philadelphia.
The Giants patiently awaited the return of the dynamic Cruz from a torn patellar tendon sustained in 2014, but that comeback never came. Cruz is expected to finally take the field this season, but it’s foolish to assume he will instantly return to his 80-reception form. Shepard, a second-round pick, has outstanding talent and was viewed as a sleeper in his draft class. One word that best summarizes the rest of New York’s receiving corps would probably be “uncertainty.”
The Giants currently have six rookie wideouts on its roster, including Shepard. Outside of Beckham and Cruz, the rest of the receivers on New York’s roster have combined to catch 89 total passes, 69 of which come from Dwayne Harris. The Giants receiving group isn’t exactly deep, and that could be an understatement.
And don’t get started on the tight ends, which is a position that hasn’t been reliable for Big Blue since the enigmatic Jeremy Shockey played in 2007. Larry Donnell and Will Tye both are unreliable options. Perhaps there might be hope in sixth-round pick and athletic freak Jerell Adams.
Manning also won’t get a ton of help from the running game, which has been mired in mediocrity for several seasons. Last year’s cast of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Vereen return, but the backfield could receive a jolt from fifth-round pick Paul Perkins.
Manning will be forced to do the heavy lifting once again in Ben McAdoo’s pass-happy offense and managed to post tremendous numbers despite a mediocre supporting cast. A talent like Beckham on the outside will never hurt a quarterback, either. But to say Manning will post a career season as he enters the twilight zone of his career might be a stretch.