If you've watched "SportsCenter" this morning, you've likely noticed that it's camped out at New York Giants training camp up in East Rutherford, N.J. Hannah Storm, Sal Paolantonio and Antonio Pierce are discussing everything from Jerry Reese's Super Bowl countdown clock to Hakeem Nicks' chances of cashing in with a big contract year. They'll be on all day, interviewing players and coaches and breaking down the Giants' second day of training camp practice.
After seemingly cementing himself as one of the NFL’s “elite” QBs in the 2011 playoffs, Eli Manning's production slumped significantly in 2012, with his biggest issue being the inability to be successful on third down.
Manning's Total QBR of 34.6 on third down ranked 27th among NFL quarterbacks.
There were questions last year as to whether Manning got tired as games went on. He completed only 54 percent of his fourth-quarter passes in 2012, a decline of 13 percentage points from 2011.
Startling numbers, and while they might be attributable to the physical problems Nicks had all season, you can bet Manning knows these numbers and enters the 2013 season determined to improve on them. I remember two years ago, when he was coming off a 25-interception season and wrinkling up his face every time somebody asked him about it. He made it his mission to correct that number, since he didn't think it accurately described him as a quarterback, and he got the number down to 16 in 2011 and 15 last season, more in line with his career norms.
I wonder about Manning's protection a little bit this season, since I don't think there's a sufficient public appreciation for what Ahmad Bradshaw meant to that aspect of the Giants' offense. But if they can keep him clean -- and if Nicks can stay healthy this time around -- I think Manning will bounce back with a more Manning-like year.