Eli Manning has always been remarkably strong in the face of pressure. His top-notch pocket presence has helped him avoid the types of hits that remove quarterbacks from games, which is why the 32-year-old New York Giants quarterback has taken all but 35 snaps in the last three years and hasn't missed a start due to injury in his nine-year career.
But Eli's older brother possesses the same traits when facing pressure and—once upon a time—Peyton Manning also established himself as an ironman who never missed time due to injury.
Until this happened and everything changed for Peyton, who missed the entire 2011 season as a result of neck problems.
The point is that one hit can change everything, and every time a block is missed or a blitzing linebacker or defensive back isn't picked up, the odds increase that the quarterback will be hit.
That's why there's reason to believe Eli Manning will need luck on his side in order to stay on the field week after week and year after year going forward.
Manning was lucky to survive in 2011, when he was the most pressured quarterback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Last year, he was pressured significantly less often, with his PFF pressure rate dropping by 24 percent.
What changed? For starters, a healthier Ahmad Bradshaw increased his yards-per-carry average from 3.9 to 4.6, keeping defenses honest, and was ranked by PFF as the best blocking halfback in the NFL. He was also a strong blocker in 2011, but his snap count and average increased dramatically last year.
Bradshaw is no longer a Giant.
What else changed? Free-agent acquisition Martellus Bennett, who took over for Jake Ballard at tight end, was deemed by PFF to be the third-best pass-blocking tight end in the NFL last year. In 2011, Ballard was ranked 47th in the same category.
Bennett is no longer a Giant.
Bradshaw's replacement, David Wilson, struggled with blocking assignments as a rookie, which placed him in head coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse for much of the 2012 season. Andre Brown, who is also likely to earn reps out of the New York backfield, posted a decent blocking rating last year but in a limited sample size. Neither blocks like Bradshaw.
Bennett's replacement, Brandon Myers, was rated by PFF last year as the fourth-worst pass-blocker in the league among tight ends who took at least 50 percent of their team's offensive snaps. He was the antithesis of Bennett.
So while it's encouraging that the offensive line excelled in 2012 after allowing more pressure than every other line in football in 2011 and it's nice that said line could actually be a touch better with rookie first-round pick Justin Pugh in 2013, there's still a chance Manning will face a lot of heat this year.
He'll have to continue to be his sneakily evasive self while keeping that four-leaf clover in his back pocket, but that line will have to be even better. Wilson, Brown and Myers will have to improve their blocking too.
Oh, and all involved parties might want to pray that Henry Hynoski's OK. The Star-Ledger's Dave Hutchinson reported that the league's fifth-best blocker at the fullback position left practice with a knee injury on Wednesday.
None of this bodes well for Manning's safety.