Eli Manning's Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses

Steven Goldstein@@GoldsteinNUContributor IJuly 23, 2012

Eli Manning's Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Less than a year ago, Giants quarterback Eli Manning caused a stir over his self-perceived "elite" status. Coming off a season where the eight-year pro tossed 25 interceptions, many football fans weren't buying into Manning's top-tier tag.

    Now, as the 2012 season rears its head, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVI is a veritable star under center. Last year, Manning posted 29 passing touchdowns, a 92.9 quarterback rating and propelled New York to an improbable fourth ring in franchise history.

    What makes him so great? And where does he still fall short? Explore the greatest gridiron strengths and weaknesses of the Giants' Eli Manning.

Strength: Velocity

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    One of the biggest challenges faced by pro quarterbacks is the nuanced timing of routes and defenses. A half-second difference in the arrival of a pass is the subsequent difference between a completion or an incompletion; a touchdown or an interception.

    Time and time again, Manning has fit passes into closing windows with remarkable timing.

    Check out this pass in a 2010 game against the Eagles, where Eli squeezes in a sideline pass to former Giant Mario Manningham, just a second before the safety converges. Also note this score from last year's NFC Championship game, where Manning delivers on a taut crossing route play.

    Of course, the most salient instance of Manning's velocity came in Super Bowl XLVI, where Manning whipped a laser into traffic to find Manningham for a big gain.

Strength: Throwing in a Collapsed Pocket

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    Manning has also succeeded in extending plays and making something from nothing. Last year, Eli was sacked just 28 times despite playing behind a malignant offensive line.

    With a career 1.9 yards per carry average, Manning is not known as a scrambling quarterback by any means. Still, he's one of the league's most elusive and crafty players from the pocket.

    Eli's toughness also comes into play here. His success in a broken pocket is exemplified by one of the most famous plays in NFL history.

Weakness: Throwing off the Back Foot

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    A persistent problem earlier in his career, Manning is still caught throwing off his back foot at times. The fundamental lapse leads to interceptions and countless incompletions on deep balls.

    It's an inevitable wrong committed by every signal-caller, but Eli seems to frequent back foot throws more than others. Perhaps this will continue to decrease as Manning matures.

Strength: The "Clutch" Gene

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    Manning's flair for the dramatic has certainly not gone unnoticed in the national spotlight.

    The nine-year veteran already has two Super Bowl MVPs to his name and claimed the single-season record for fourth quarter touchdown passes in 2011. Last year, he tallied a triple-digit quarterback rating when his Giants were losing and notched a 109.4 mark on third downs.

    Eli has engineered countless comebacks and continues to deliver in the clutch. For further reading, reference last season's late-game heroics, his final drive in Super Bowl XLII and this play from Manning's 2005 season.

Weakness: Decision Making

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    Another major issue that plagued Manning's early years, shoddy decision making still comes back to haunt Eli and the Giants at times.

    Eli has been seen throwing passes into heavily covered zones, forcing plays with seemingly little upside and losing track of routes throughout his playing days. Amidst a career renaissance, Manning still hurled out 16 picks, a mark that tied for seventh-worst in the league.

    Towards the tail end of 2011, Eli's execution was near-flawless. But, like every quarterback to some extent, turnovers continue to be a problem.

Weakness: Consistency

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    When Eli's on top of his game, few can match the way he controls an offense. But when Eli's having an off day, things get ugly.

    After three consecutive efforts of 90-plus quarterback rating in Weeks 12-14 of last year, Manning posted one touchdown to four interceptions and a combined 47.7 percent completion percentage in Weeks 15 and 16. In 2010, he threw three or more interceptions in four games, and in 2009, his QB rating dropped below 70 four times.

    Manning is still a top-notch talent, but his maddening inconsistency certainly brings him down.

Strength: Field Smarts

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    Eli's ability to read defenses, exploit perceived mismatches and adjust plays at the line of scrimmage is one of his most enduring traits.

    Manning is a smart quarterback, there's no way around it. He's proficient in Xs and Os, and his knowledge of the game ranks among the NFL's best.

    Sure, his trademark "Omaha!" audible is bait for mockery, but when it's all said and done, Eli's a field-savvy QB with a grip on how the sport works.

Strength: Durability

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    Eli Manning's durability is the gift that keeps on giving for the Giants.

    Manning's 130 consecutive starts bests all active quarterbacks, and he hasn't missed a game since taking the reins of the offense in 2004. In a league riddled with randomness, unpredictability and ephemerality, Manning's health is a blessing and a marvel.

    Simply put, just staying on the field is one of Eli's biggest strengths.

Strength: The Deep Ball

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    Manning's deep ball prowess makes New York's offense one of the league's most prolific units. Eli's success on vertical routes is evidenced by 2011's 8.4 yards per attempt average, which tied for fourth best in the NFL.

    With wideouts Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks at his disposal, Manning rarely shies away from tossing a bomb. Rehash Eli's best long ball moments with a hail mary strike to Hakeem Nicks in last year's postseason, this play against the Buffalo Bills and this one vs. the crosstown New York Jets.