Watch Out NFL: Eli Manning, New York Giants Will Soar If O-Line Holds Up
Nov 6, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo talks with Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) and quarterback Eli Manning (10) and wide receiver Roger Lewis (82) and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) during a review during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If the New York Giants offensive line holds up, the rest of the NFL better be worried. Eli Manning and company can dominate games.

Forget Ben McAdoo for a moment. The rookie head coach deserves all the credit in the world for leading the way to a victory over the hated Philadelphia Eagles and getting his squad to a pretty record of 5-3.

This is about Eli Manning, the underappreciated great one. The QB who never seems to receive his fair share of love from the city continues to get it done.

With four touchdowns — two of which went to birthday boy Odell Beckham Jr. — Eli led his New York Giants from fourth to second place in the NFC East over the course of one football Sunday. Where they currently stand brings with it the No. 1 NFC Wild Card berth.

But that doesn’t matter. It’s still only half a season.

What matters is understanding how dangerous a team this truly is.

Only one aspect of the personnel was, and still is holding the G-Men back. It’s an underrated and always undervalued aspect of football to the casual fan. We, of course, are referring to the offensive line. A unit that makes up for nearly half of the entire offense always plays out as a critical factor.

When Jerry Reese didn’t address the line this past offseason, Giants fans had their doubts.

Ereck Flowers, though talented, couldn’t establish himself as one of the up-and-coming tackles in the league. Just Pugh, though established, fell back on hard times in 2015. The rest of the rag-tag group brought along unsettling uncertainties.

Interestingly enough, through eight games this season, the O-Line hasn’t destroyed the team.

Have they been great? Of course not. The only great O-Line in a league littered with mediocre O-Line play resides in Dallas. This mediocrity can be blamed on a number of things, especially a lack of practice physicality in the summer. Unlike its counterpart, the defensive line, the offensive big boys need to mesh together. Sometimes, it takes time.

This New York offensive line seems to be building a certain chemistry as the NFL hits the midway point of the season.

They’ve held up enough to allow Manning to perform serious damage through the air. At times, it’s limited what McAdoo and Eli want to do downfield, but the work is slowly coming together.

The Giants rank sixth in passing yards a game (271.6) while only relenting 12 sacks (sixth best in the league).

The more astute football mind realizes this is more a product of Manning’s smarts, in his quick release while maintaining an awareness for the pocket. But the fact of the matter is the passing area of the offense shouldn’t be worried about one bit.

Where the issue lies, as most would argue, is in the running game.

McAdoo’s rushing attack is dead last in the NFL. The only thing worse than its 68.2 yards per contest is how brutal the offense looks when attempting to run. Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen (when he was around), Paul Perkins, Orleans Darkwa — none have been able to take the reigns.

However, this is where it gets very interesting.

The old adage that defense and running the ball wins championships only works one way these days. Only the word “old” holds water. Defense wins championships. There’s no doubt about that. But the running game is extinct in terms of championship importance.

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Flashback five years to the season of 2011. The mediocre 7-7 Giants faced a Rex Ryan Jets squad eager to make it to the tournament for a third straight season. Victor Cruz took a 99-yard short one to the house. Counting that victory, New York ripped off six straight wins en route to Eli Manning’s second Vince Lombardi trophy.

The Giants rushed for 89.2 yards a game that season, dead last in the NFL.

Running the ball effectively isn’t a necessity in this age of alternative passing. Any version of the West Coast offense, McAdoo’s included, boasts a multitude of passing designs that fills the gap in place of a potent rushing attack. We’ve come to a point in the NFL that three buckets of offense should be listed, not the traditional two of “passing” and “rushing.”

The third bucket is “designed passes” that hit for quick short-gains taking the place of the rushing attack.

Two seasons ago, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl with an 18th ranked running game. Last year, the Denver Broncos pulled it off with the 17th ranked attack. In 2010, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers did it while ranking 24th in the NFL.

The point is, a hall of fame quarterback with a capable defense always has a fighting chance to rip off tournament wins and take home hardware. Whether or not the defense builds momentum in a Steve Spagnuolo way remains to be seen.

Forget the running game. Eli Manning doesn’t need it.

All he needs are those five big heavies in front of him to hold up enough. All he needs is a fighting chance in the pocket.

If he recieves that, this Giants team will be very dangerous downt he stretch.

 NEXT: Manning, Giants Outgun Eagles 28-23 (Highlights) 


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