Eli Is the Key: Exploring the NY Giants Offense

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMay 15, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 21:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants signals before the snap against the Carolina Panthers on December 21, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

I realize I may be getting a little repetitive, but without getting into all the drama surrounding our offense last season, the subject of this article is the 2009 Giants offense.

As it is clear, our offense is based on a power running game and deep play action passing. The O-Line is arguably the best unit in the league, and we also have an incredibly bruising lead blocker in Madison Hedgecock.

These weapons have allowed our offense to have great success on the running game, regardless of who is running the ball.

The other weapon which allowed this offense to succeed was, as we all know, Plaxico Burress. With his incredible size and speed, Plax was a constant vertical threat, burning corners and safeties and keeping defenses honest while at it. U

Ultimately, this scheme was working so beautifully that Plax attracted constant double coverage, which opened up the other receivers and the running game at the same time. The result of it was a 10-1 start at the 2008 season.

However, the situation has changed drastically this year. Plax is gone, and the offense sucked without him. Amani Toomer is also gone, as well as Derrick Ward. A very young group of players compose our receiving corp, with most of the players being less than 26 years old.

As we evaluate these young receivers, we can immediately observe that none possess the ability and experience to play Plax’s old role. So what does this mean?

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Basically, it means that the play action deep passing is not going to work as our main weapon any more and, ultimately, it means that there needs to be a whole new passing scheme, as keeping the old one is condoning the repetition of last year’s downfall after Week 11.

As mentioned above, our O-line and FB are dominant, and because of this fact, our running backs—who are great, by the way—are more than capable of keeping our power running game rolling on all cylinders. This allows the changes between the old and the new scheme to be eased in without much pressure.

After reaching the aforementioned conclusion comes the challenge of choosing the right type of scheme to go with. In order to do that, all weapons shall be analyzed.

So, getting to it.

Our receiving group is a very young one. The players likely to start on Week  One are Steve Smith, who in his two-year career has managed to grow into Eli’s favorite target and Domenik Hixon, who did a fairly good job having to deal with the pressure of not just replacing Plax, but to be him.

At TE, we have a very solid and reliable one in Kevin Boss, who should be more utilized this year.

The other veteran targets are a real question mark. Signorice Moss and Mario Manningham are known for their speed, but didn’t see much playing time, as both were slowed down by injuries.

The return of David Tyree should be good for the offense, as he is the most experienced receiver in the group, and should pass on that experience on to the younger veterans and rookies, although he might not be a major factor in the passing game.

The referred rookies are WRs Hackeem Nicks and Ramses Barden and TE/H-Back Travis Beckum. Nicks, a star coming from UNC, possesses freakish huge hands, runs good, clean routes, and was rated as the most pro-ready WR coming in this draft, as he used to play in pro-style offense. His college coach even compared him to Michael Irving.

Barden is very big at 6’6", and came from Cal Poly. He is taken as a raw talent, a work in progress, but his size should provide him immediate playing time, especially in end zone situations. Expect him to catch a few in the end zone this season.

Backum is perhaps the most exciting one to watch. He is extremely fast for a TE, which makes him a mismatch machine against LBs. Coach Coughlin already said Beckum is going to be used as an H-Back, something that can add a lot of different options for Eli to work with.

All in all, the best way to take advantage of this group is by spreading the ball almost equally among them, using plenty of packages with short, high percentage passes.

Plays involving Beckum should also be used as an extra factor out of the backfield. This would combine with our power running game very well and would also create some space for the occasional play action deep pass Gillbride is so fond of.

There is also the fact that this kind of passing scheme should be effective in the strong winds of the Meadowlands.

Now we move on to the most important aspect, the QB. Eli Manning is coming from a Pro Bowl season, in which he showed the league that he’s matured. Making excellent pre-snap decisions, Eli seems to have found his swagger.

Although playing poorly without Plax, he was able to cut his interceptions down to only 10 (while throwing 21 TDs), as opposed to 20 in 2007.

It is also clear now that he is the leader of this offense. Like any other QB, Eli is the key. This offense has proved that it can be very explosive, but this year, with all the veterans gone, young players needing to step up and rookies coming in, Eli has the responsibility to hold things together, take the load, and carry this offense.

Manning has a knack for always saying “I just need to make better decisions” in interviews. Well, turns out his decision making is not going to be the issue this year.

Eli is reliable to make great decisions; he has proven that. The real issue this season is about becoming the heart and soul of this offense. About making all doubters and haters shut up, for criticizing him won’t make any sense.

It is Eli’s time to be great, to really show us what he is made of, because, more than ever, he is in charge.