The most scrutinized position for the New York Giants in 2019 will be at quarterback.
Eli Manning is entering his 16th season with more eyes on him than at any other time in his career. One of the primary reasons is the selection of Daniel Jones in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones is said to be similar to No. 10 in build and demeanor. Despite the misplaced vitriol stemming from his draft position, Jones’ performance this spring may means that Manning couls be on the clock.
Of course, Manning is the most accomplished quarterback to ever wear a Giants uniform. His resume is worthy of him receiving a bust in Canton. However, he will be under more pressure than he has ever faced as a starting NFL quarterback.
In 2018, Manning had one of his best statistical seasons but it did little to mask the Giants’ offensive inadequacies and his own. The Giants finished 5-11, failing to make the playoffs for the sixth time in the seven seasons since winning Super Bowl XLVI. At times, he looked like Dennis Quaid’s character in the film Any Given Sunday: a quarterback who is past his prime and hanging on by a thread. This season, his place in Giants history will have nothing to do with whether or not he remains the starter.
“I think we’re going to play the very best player,” head coach Pat Shurmur said after the final OTA practice when asked about the impending quarterback battle in training camp. “I know we’re dancing around the words there. Eli is getting ready to have a great year and Daniel is getting ready to play. We’ll see what happens with it.”
The 38-year-old Manning looked good in the spring. He will definitely enter the regular season as the starter barring Jones channeling the spirit of Joe Montana in training camp. Although the Giants are playing a last place schedule in 2019 (ranked as third-easiest in the NFC East and fifth-easiest in the NFL), they will be tested early.
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They open the season with three of their first six games on the road, including trips to face the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys in the opener and defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on a Thursday night. The Giants’ bye week isn’t until Week 11. Last season, they were 1-7 at the bye. If the Giants are 1-9, 2-8, or 3-7, the voices calling for Shurmur to insert Jones will grow in number and volume.
If the Giants have no hope of making the postseason after the bye, Jones could get thrown in the mix just as Manning was when Kurt Warner was benched almost 15 years ago. Four of the Giants’ final six games will be in the cozy confines of MetLife Stadium (technically, it’s five of the final seven because they are the “away” team against the New York Jets just before the bye). If the Giants are out of the playoff race, Jones could begin his NFL career mostly at home.
There will also be a lesser quarterback conundrum. Jones (again barring an absolutely horrendous preseason performance) will enter the season as Manning’s backup. The third-string “battle” will take place between Kyle Lauletta and Alex Tanney. Lauletta, a 2018 fourth-round pick (108th overall) attempted just five passes in 2018 in two games. He didn’t complete a single pass. He may be auditioning for the Giants’ third-string job or even perhaps for the other 31 teams. On the other hand, Tanney hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since the 2015 regular season finale with the Tennessee Titans.
Manning is in the final year of his contract and in complete control of his NFL destiny. If he starts and the Giants are winning, the voices calling for him to hang up his cleats will be silenced. However, if the Giants look like they have for the better part of the last seven seasons, the Daniel Jones Era will begin sooner rather than later.