New York Giants: Peyton Manning

Phase 2 of the New York Giants' offseason workout program begins today, which means after two weeks of nothing but strength and conditioning work, the team's offense and defense can line up (without pads) and go through drills (against no one) under the supervision of the full coaching staff. Giants quarterback Eli Manning will still be only a spectator as he continues to rehab from ankle surgery. But Eli's brother Peyton Manning said at a Yankees game on Sunday that Eli is coming along well. Per the Daily News:
According to Manning’s older brother Peyton, the Giants’ franchise cornerstone has already started throwing the football. Both Manning brothers were guests in Derek Jeter’s suite at Yankee Stadium for the Bombers game against the Rays on Sunday.

“He feels good,” Peyton Manning said of Eli. “He was doing some light throwing the other day, obviously just kind of upper-body stuff.”

I wouldn't make too much of it. Eli Manning is likely to be a quick healer, and my guess is he'll be back on the field toward the earlier end of his initial recovery timetable -- possibly even for part of the June minicamp. And I'm sure Manning and the Giants are all eager to get him on the field and running Ben McAdoo's offense as quickly as possible. But it's May 5, and the Giants and Manning are smart enough to know that the right moves are the ones that have him at full strength in September, with no setbacks along the way.
Mike Sando has an interesting piece Insider on ESPN.com looking at which current NFL quarterbacks would be worth trading the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. The premise is that the Houston Texans, who need a quarterback and have the No. 1 overall pick, are concerned about the quality of their choices and may opt not to take any of this year's quarterbacks No. 1 overall. So if, hypothetically, someone would trade them a quarterback for that pick, which quarterbacks would be worth it?

Manning
Mike asked ESPN analyst Bill Polian, ESPN.com scout Matt Williamson and an NFL GM which quarterbacks would be worth it. Polian and the GM both listed New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning among the answers. Matt did not, as Mike explains:
Williamson listed nearly as many quarterbacks (17) as the other two panelists combined, but he left off Manning after a brutal 2013 season.

"Eli did have a very unlucky year and he's had a lot going against him of late, but frankly, he hasn't played good football in a year and a half," Williamson said.

So Manning falls into Mike's "Close but note quite" category, behind the seven quarterbacks who fell into the "clearly worth a No. 1 overall pick" category. Those seven are Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Only two of those seven (Peyton Manning and Luck) actually were a No. 1 overall picks, as Eli Manning was.

I think if the Giants offered Eli Manning to the Texans for the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, the Texans would say yes before the Giants ended their first sentence. The question to you, Giants fans, is if you'd trade Eli Manning for this year's No. 1 pick.

I would not, personally. Making a deal like that would require the Giants to find a quarterback to replace Manning, and any of the quarterbacks available in this year's (or any year's) draft would count themselves lucky to have half the career Manning already has had. The Giants have a franchise quarterback -- something not even half of the teams in the league can claim. There's no price to be put on that.

But what do you think?
In general, I'm not a fan of throwing big money at the top-line, most established free agents out there. Unless you're looking at franchise quarterbacks, NFL careers are too short and players' primes are too fleeting. If you're spending big bucks on a guy who's already done a lot, odds are you'll end up paying for some bad years -- or trying to find a way out of a bad contract.

So in general, I like what the New York Giants did Tuesday on the first day of free agency. I think they still have a lot to do, but the guys they did sign fit a desirable profile when I look at what free agency is at its best. They were looking for players who are somewhat established in the league but still have upside and lots to prove. And I think they may have found it with these three interesting signings:

Guard Geoff Schwartz. A former 16-game starter who's played guard and tackle in the league and only this past year fully recovered from a 2011 hip injury. He was one of the top interior linemen in the league over the second half of 2013 for Kansas City, turns 28 in July and feels like a player on the upswing, the way Evan Mathis was when the Eagles signed him under the radar in 2011. He also has some experience playing tackle, so they could potentially use him there if they decide to rearrange anything with Justin Pugh or Will Beatty.

Running back Rashad Jennings. Hasn't had much opportunity to start in the NFL, but as a result he also has a bit more tread on his tires than your typical 29-year-old running back. The Giants have some underlying numbers to indicate Jennings is capable of big things if given more carries than he's been given at this point in his career. If they choose to rely on him as a starter, he could explode. If David Wilson is viable and they use Jennings as a complementary back, they could find him useful for a long time to come. Another guy who may be ready to take off.

Linebacker O'Brien Schofield. This one's kind of a wild card. Schofield hasn't done much as an outside linebacker in the NFL so far, but he was a pass-rusher in college at Wisconsin and finished second (to Ryan Kerrigan) in the Big Ten in sacks in 2009. So you look at the two-year, $8 million deal and wonder what this guy has done to earn it. But (a) let's see what the contract numbers really look like once we have details and (b) the Giants appear to be trying to pay guys for what they think they will do for them, rather than for what they've done for their former teams. So if they look at Schofield as a player who can contribute to the pass rush, and they plan to use him that way, the money starts to make more sense.

Some other notes:

The Giants also have brought back four of their own free agents -- running back Peyton Hillis, safety Stevie Brown, kicker Josh Brown and cornerback Trumaine McBride. All depth moves, though McBride and/or Brown could end up starting if other things don't work out.

Linebacker Jon Beason remains someone the Giants hope to re-sign, but because he's acting as his own agent, he wasn't allowed to have any contact with teams until 4 p.m. Tuesday (as opposed to noon Saturday, when agents were allowed to talk to teams but players weren't). So Beason is only 17 hours into his market, and he's wise to find out what that market is before just accepting what the Giants have to offer.

Two of the Giants' own free agents left -- defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings and safety Ryan Mundy to the Bears. As I wrote Tuesday night, I think they'll miss Joseph. At 25, I think he fits the profile of the kind of free agent you look to sign, rather than the kind you let walk out the door. But the Giants didn't feel like spending $6 million a year on a defensive tackle, so Joseph is gone.

With DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers getting cut Tuesday, the market for veteran pass-rushers is suddenly flooded with huge names. That would seem to mean Justin Tuck isn't likely to strike gold elsewhere. There was industry sentiment that Tuck won't find enough on the market to convince him to leave the Giants, and that he'd re-sign and try to play out his whole career with the same team. However, Adam Schefter reported late Tuesday that Tuck had a visit scheduled with the Raiders today, and no one has more to spend right now than the Raiders. They're also hosting pass-rusher LaMarr Woodley, but there's nothing to stop them from signing both Woodley and Tuck if they choose. So stay tuned on that.

I still think they need to add a center, and I don't think bringing back Kevin Boothe is the answer. They need to think about long-term solutions on the offensive line, and if Boothe and Chris Snee are two of their starters next year, I don't see how they're doing that. None of the free-agent centers signed Tuesday, though Evan Dietrich-Smith is visiting Tampa Bay today, so he could be off the market soon.

NFL Network reported that cornerback Tracy Porter was in for a visit Tuesday night. Ran back an Eli Manning interception for a touchdown for the Raiders in Week 10 last year. Along with his game-sealing interception touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV, that made him the first player to return both an Eli Manning interception and a Peyton Manning interception for a touchdown. Porter doesn't turn 28 until August and fits that same model of guys who have done something but may be on the cusp of more. He doesn't strike me as the answer if what they wanted was a top corner to pair with Prince Amukamara, but maybe they really see McBride as the outside starter again. I think they should be thinking bigger.

Other needs still to be addressed include wide receiver, tight end, middle linebacker (could be Beason), defensive line (Tuck or his replacement and a low-priced free-agent defensive tackle) and kick returner (could be Jacoby Jones, who's in for a visit Wednesday). The Giants entered the offseason in need of a full-on roster rebuild, and they've only been at it one day. Expect them to continue to be busy.
If you have an ESPN Insider subscription, you should check out Bill Polian's free-agent tracker, which has Bill's grades for all of the top guys on the market, sorts them by position, etc. If you don't have an ESPN Insider subscription, you should get one, if only so you can access Bill Polian's free-agent tracker.

With regard to the New York Giants, we discussed on Wednesday's "NFL Insiders" some potential targets for them at running back. I listed four -- Houston's Ben Tate, Indianapolis' Donald Brown, Oakland's Rashad Jennings and the Giants' own Andre Brown. But there are surely more possibilities, as the running back market is tough to predict. Most teams don't feel compelled to spend big resources on the position, and the Giants are no exception -- especially two years after drafting David Wilson in the first round and still not knowing for sure how that's going to pan out.

What the Giants will be looking for is a back who can handle a starter's workload (in the event that Wilson and his surgically repaired neck cannot) and who can help in the passing game -- as a receiver and, even more importantly, as a blocker. So here's a look at a few guys who could catch their eye and what they might bring to the table, with a little help from Bill Polian's free-agent tracker:

Ben Tate: He's a physical, north/south runner who's likely to be the highest-paid back on the market (which could take him out of the mix for the Giants). Looks like a guy who could carry a starter's workload, but there are other guys who can help better in the passing game.

Donald Brown: He ranks No. 1 on Bill's list of running backs after outplaying Trent Richardson as the Colts' No. 1 back in 2013. He's also a willing pass-protector, which will appeal.

Rashad Jennings: Had a big game against the Giants in Week 10 and looks ready to assume a starter's role somewhere. Some seem to think, however, that he's a liability as a blocker. Possible he just wasn't asked to do it much in Oakland.

Andre Brown/Peyton Hillis: They finished the season as the Giants' backfield tandem and could be brought back in similar roles if things don't work out in the search for upgrades.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Question is how much he has left. The Jones-Drew of three years ago would be perfect for what the Giants do. But it's been a while since we've seen that guy.

Knowshon Moreno: Broncos unlikely to just let him leave. Part of the reason he got and kept the job there was his ability to pick up the blitz on passing downs for Peyton Manning.

LeGarrette Blount: Was this just a Bill Belichick miracle, unlikely to be repeated elsewhere? Or was it a talented guy fulfilling his potential at long last? Blount has appealing size.

There are more names, but you get the idea. The Giants are going hunting for running backs. We shall see what they turn up.
NEW YORK -- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning appeared on SportsCenter on Wednesday to discuss the Super Bowl, which will be played Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Manning, who plays his home games at MetLife and whose brother, Peyton Manning, will be the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII, doesn't think the winter weather will have an effect on the game.

"In the new stadium, the conditions should be good," Manning said. "I saw maybe only 7 mph winds, and that won’t be a factor. The new stadium isn’t as windy as the old Giants Stadium, and it sounds like the weather is about as good as it can be for this time of year. If it was going to 5 degrees with 25 mph winds, it might be different. It might affect Denver’s offense and the passing games of both teams. But I think with it being close to 30 degrees and not much wind, Peyton’s played in a lot of cold-weather games this year and been fine. So I don’t see it affecting either team, and I think it’ll be a great game."

Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and will be on hand Sunday to watch his older brother try to win his second Super Bowl title. Pressed for a prediction about the game, Eli Manning said only that he was rooting for his brother's team.

NFLN survey/Super Bowl QB: Giants

January, 29, 2014
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We surveyed 10 players from each NFL team, on condition of anonymity, and asked them a variety of questions. We're rolling out the results of the survey piece-by-piece, and today we present the results from this question:

Two-minute warning and the Super Bowl is on the line. Whom do you want at quarterback?

The winner was the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, with 128 of a possible 320 votes, or a whopping 40 percent. No huge surprise, since Brady has won the Super Bowl three times. The Broncos' Peyton Manning, who's trying for his second Super Bowl title Sunday, was second with 86 votes. Super Bowl champions Aaron Rodgers (32), Drew Brees (21) and Ben Roethlisberger (20) followed, and then came two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning of the New York Giants with nine votes.

I actually have a cute story about this. So far in these posts, I have resisted writing anything about what any of the Giants players I surveyed said or how they voted, since this was supposed to be confidential and revealing any details like that would threaten at least part of the confidentiality. But in this case, I asked the people involved if it would be okay for me to write this, and they said yes, so here goes.

One of the rules for this question (and all of the others) is that you aren't supposed to vote for someone from your own team. But a couple of Giants voted for Eli Manning. And when I brought up the rule in an effort to get them to change it, they refused. One of them said to me, "Come on. I understand the rule, but my teammate has actually done this exact thing twice. How many other quarterbacks in the league can say that?"

And he was right. So we let them keep their answers. Pretty tough to argue.
NEW YORK -- Michael Strahan retired after helping the New York Giants win the Super Bowl six years ago, going out a champion even though he says he was still capable of playing. Though some have imagined a similar ending for quarterback Peyton Manning should he lead the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, Strahan doesn't foresee it.

Strahan
Strahan
"He shouldn't. Have you seen the way he's playing?" Strahan said Tuesday. "I think we all would feel cheated if, win or lose, Peyton decided to stop playing, because we'd be saying, 'Think what we all missed.'"

Strahan said he takes pride in his belief that he was productive and excellent right up until the end of his career.

"No one looked at the end of my career and said, 'He should give money back. He's not earning it anymore,'" said Strahan, who is a finalist in Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame election. "When your heart's not in it, that's when you have to go. My heart quit before my body did. That's why I decided it was time. If [Manning's] heart is still in it, then I'm sure he'll keep playing."

Manning said as much Sunday when asked whether he was considering that this could be his final game, but he has also said his final decision rests on the results of a postseason physical that includes an examination of his surgically repaired neck. Regardless, you can put Strahan in the camp that doesn't think Manning needs to win Sunday to cement his place in NFL history.

"When it's all over, I think we need to realize we may be looking at the greatest ever to play the game," Strahan said. "Maybe he doesn't have the rings that [Joe] Montana has, or my man [Terry] Bradshaw, or even [Tom] Brady. But I think everything else he's done is pretty remarkable."
No, the New York Giants are not in this year's Super Bowl. But due to geographical convenience, I will be contributing all week to ESPN.com's Super Bowl coverage. I promise to keep the Giants page as fresh as possible, and frankly there should be enough Giants and Giants-related people running around the Super Bowl that we'll have no shortage of angles. Heck, even the Denver Broncos brought a couple with them Sunday night.

Broncos coach John Fox reminisced about his years spent living and working in New Jersey as the Giants' defensive coordinator, even mentioning during a discussion about his heart condition that it had been discovered during a Giants team physical. And Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning cracked about a lighthearted moment he'd shared with his little brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in which the latter told him he probably couldn't offer too many tips on how to beat the Seahawks. Eli threw five interceptions in a 23-0 loss to Seattle in Week 15.

So guys like Eli and Justin Tuck and Steve Weatherford and others are already scheduled to appear on Radio Row this week. And at week's end, former Giant Michael Strahan could well be elected to the Hall of Fame. Keep it locked right here for Giants news as it comes up, and in the meantime if you'd like to check out the rest of my contributions to our team Super Bowl coverage, it shouldn't be too tough for you to find it. Enjoy.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- As brothers who are NFL quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning compare notes. With older brother Peyton and the Denver Broncos in New Jersey this week to play the Super Bowl in the New York Giants' home stadium, little brother Eli has said he's trying to offer as much local-knowledge help as possible. But when the topic turns to how to beat the Seattle Seahawks, Peyton joked Sunday, Eli's not going to be much use to him.

"Yeah, he told me he couldn't help much with Seattle," Peyton Manning said in his news conference shortly after the Broncos arrived Sunday afternoon. "That wasn't one of the Giants' best games."

Eli Manning threw five interceptions in a 23-0 Giants loss to the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in Week 15.

Big Blue Morning: Coughlin's future

January, 24, 2014
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New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin tells ESPN Radio's Ian O'Connor in an interview to air Sunday that he'd like to keep coaching for a while. It's basically exactly what Coughlin said about his future the day after the season ended, so it doesn't come as any kind of shock, but it bears watching since the team has yet to extend his contract beyond the 2014 season.

I wrote a column late in the season that wondered whether Coughlin would want to return, given the likelihood that the Giants could be at the start of a challenging rebuild. But now that he's made it clear he wants to keep coaching as long as they'll let him, I believe him and I think he probably will. He surely knows the state of the roster as well as anyone does, and he knows the challenges that loom this offseason in terms of rebuilding the offensive line and putting better skill-position pieces around Eli Manning, and he seems eager to take them on.

In other news, Manning is trying to help out his big brother, Peyton Manning, as Peyton and the Broncos prepare to play the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in nine days. Eli Manning also said he anticipates changes to the offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, but that he's excited about them. And former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who's a Hall of Fame finalist for the second year in a row, said on a conference call that he hadn't given much thought to his chances for election this time around. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be announced Saturday, Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl, in New York City.
With the Super Bowl matchup set, Rich Cimini offers this breakdown of the local storylines for ESPNNewYork.com. The most interesting link from a New York Giants standpoint is the curiosity about Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning trying to win his second Super Bowl title in the stadium in which his younger brother, Eli Manning, plays his home games. It's a curiosity because, two years ago, Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl title at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where Peyton used to play his home games. At the time, it had become clear that Peyton had already played his final game as a Colt more than a year earlier, but it was still an historical oddity worthy of at least passing attention.

Eli Manning said on the day after the Giants' 7-9 season ended that the only way he'd go to the Super Bowl was if the Broncos and his big brother were playing in it, so he'll surely be around next week and at the game on Feb. 2. And he'll surely be rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to win, no matter that it would happen in his own home stadium. It's clear by now that these brothers want the best for each other and that there isn't any jealousy or envy that goes along with their relationship. As Rich writes, this will be the fifth Super Bowl out of the last eight to feature one of the Manning brothers, and the family remains unfailingly appreciative of its own remarkable success.

The Manning family is also appreciative of the journey Peyton has made in the past two years from four neck surgeries that threatened his career to a slew of single-season passing records and a third Super Bowl appearance. Peyton and his family wondered if he'd ever play again, and to return to play at this particular level is an accomplishment worthy of more attention than it's receiving. Eli told The Star-Ledger's Steve Politi on Sunday that, "With Peyton, not much amazes me anymore."

NFLN survey/respected player: Giants

January, 16, 2014
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We continue to unveil piece-by-piece results of our NFL Nation Confidential poll of players. We surveyed 10 players on each team, on the condition of anonymity, and asked a variety of questions. Today we offer the results from the question, "Which player do you respect the most?" Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the landslide winner with 86 of the 320 votes. Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson tied for second with 24 votes apiece.

I can't tell you who won the New York Giants' team vote, because the results were supposed to be completely confidential. But I can tell you that only one Giants player got a single vote in the poll -- linebacker Jon Beason, who got one.

Part of what made this whole exercise interesting was the open-ended nature of some of the questions, including this one. "Respect" for a fellow player may be something at which different players arrive via different paths. My guess is that Manning has earned respect due to his performance (which reached all-time highs during his record-setting 2013 season), his longevity, his obviously significant role on the operation of his offense (OMAHA!) and his comeback from multiple neck surgeries and an injury that could have ended his career. It's no surprise he's the winner.

NFLN survey/franchise player: Giants

January, 16, 2014
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Our NFL Nation team of reporters surveyed 10 players from each team, on the condition of anonymity, and we're rolling out the answers to our questions in advance of the Super Bowl. One of the questions was "If you had to start a team with one player, whom would it be?" The winner was Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, with 62 votes out of the 320. A close second was Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, with 56 votes. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were next on the list with 41 and 40 votes, respectively, and Calvin Johnson was the top non-quarterback wit 37 votes.

The only New York Giants player who got a vote on this question was wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who got one. I'm a fan of Nicks -- or at least the pre-2013 version of Nicks -- but I'd happily pick second in an all-NFL-players draft in which someone took him at No. 1. Eli Manning remains the Giants player you'd take if you were starting a team tomorrow, or maybe you could make a case for Victor Cruz due to Manning's age.

Speaking of age, I'd probably have answered Luck to this question, since I interpret the question to mean I'd be starting a team and intending to build it to win long-term. Peyton Manning is turning 38 in March, and while I'd definitely take him first if I were picking a team to play this weekend, I think the 24-year-old Luck is the guy you take if you're thinking about building something around your top pick that can last a long time.

NFLN survey/feared player: Giants

January, 9, 2014
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ESPN.com's NFL Nation surveyed 10 players from every team on a variety of questions, and the results will be released in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. The first question addressed in our series was, "Who is the most feared player in the NFL?", and while the results don't include any New York Giants players, they do include a few players the Giants faced this season.

The top two players on the list were Detroit Lions -- defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who got 19 percent of the vote, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who got 18.1 percent of the vote. The vast difference in the roles those two players have for the Lions indicates the open-endedness of the question, which was a characteristic I found interesting in my own confidential polling of Giants players. There were defensive players named for their fearsome ability to dominate games physically, and there were offensive players named for their ability to demoralize defenses.

As for those two particular Lions, neither turned in any kind of eye-popping performance in the Week 16 game the Giants came back to win in overtime in Detroit. The Lions were toast by then, and were eliminated from postseason contention by that game's result.

Other players on the list who played on Giants 2013 opponents included Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who took them apart in Week 2, and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who didn't do much in that "Monday Night Football" game in Week 7 that produced the Giants' first victory of the season.

The survey was a fun and fascinating exercise, and I look forward to sharing more of the results with you as the weeks before the Super Bowl unfold.

QB Watch: Giants' Eli Manning

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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A weekly analysis of the New York Giants' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: Monday night's victory over the Vikings was the first game this season in which Eli Manning did not throw an interception. At least partially for that reason, it also was the first game this season in which the Giants outscored their opponents. He wasn't perfect, obviously. There were a couple of balls that could have been intercepted somewhat easily if the Vikings' defensive backs had better hands. But they weren't, and Manning needed a turnover-free game to feel good about himself again. He was 23-for-39 for a modest 200 yards and a touchdown pass to Rueben Randle. His completion percentage of 59.0 was his highest in any game since Week 1.

Fast-forward: Manning and the Giants play the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday, just three weeks after he threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in a span of nine throws and effectively handed the Eagles the Week 5 game at MetLife Stadium. Manning was 24-for-52 for 334 yards and two touchdowns in that game. It was his lowest completion-percentage game of the year.

A new feature? Manning found new running back Peyton Hillis five times for 45 yards Monday night. Hillis is known for his good hands, and even if Brandon Jacobs is back to get the bulk of the carries Sunday, Hillis as a checkdown option in the passing game could be a help going forward as Manning continues to try to limit turnovers.

Prediction: I think Manning finds some big yardage down the field against that Eagles' secondary, but he'll also face pressure again, and this time the opponent will be able to take advantage better if he misses throws. Manning goes over 300 yards but does not have a second straight interception-free game.

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