Will This Finally Be Eli's Year?

Will This Finally Be Eli's Year?

There is no greater question surrounding the New York Giants as they head into training camp up in Albany.

Will Eli Manning finally step up and become the signal-caller worthy of being selected number one overall in the 2004 NFL Draft? Or have we seen all that we're going to from the young Manning? Read on as TGI tackles camp's biggest questions under center.

Can Eli be the Giants' Man?

We've seen enough evidence to be able to make a strong argument in either direction. We've seen the ability, accuracy and late-game leadership in comeback wins over the Eagles and Broncos. But we've also seen subpar (to say the least) performances in playoff losses to Carolina and Philadelphia.

Manning and the offense can no longer hide behind the exceptional talents of Tiki Barber. With Barber now on television, opponents will be focused in squarely on Manning while every member of the Giants offense is going to be looking to number 10 to lead this highly-skilled unit to the next level.

The hope is that Manning's work with new QBs coach Chris Palmer will not only shape up a few of the mechanical issues that have plagued him, but help him relax and play more consistently as well.

And remember, Jerry Reese is not the man who drafted Manning. With Ernie Accorsi out traveling the world and watching baseball, if Manning has another unimpressive season, don't figure Reese to take very long to look into starting the process of replacing him.

Who will be number two for Big Blue?

All the Manning questions just assume that he'll be upright and last the entire season. Manning and the Giants have been fortunate so far that he's been able to start every game for the last two years. However, with each passing season, it becomes more and more unlikely that he'll be able to make all the starts once again.

If he were to go down, who steps in? The Giants brought in NFL veteran Anthony Wright to the reserve QB mix. Last year's backup Jared Lorenzen is going to have to fight hard to hold down the backup spot, while last year's number three, Tim Hasselbeck, is going to need quite a camp to hold onto his roster spot.

While Wright isn't the second coming by any stretch, he brings experience, confidence and a stronger résumé to assist Manning than anyone since Kurt Warner was here during Manning's rookie year.

Will they be better in '07?

The answer to the all-important question is yes. While Manning is clearly going to struggle at times with even more pressure on him to run a Barber-less offense, the presence of new play-caller (Kevin Gilbride) and QBs coach (Chris Palmer) should help Manning immeasurably. And the addition of Wright, who will ultimately take Hasselbeck's spot, is an upgrade, albeit a very slight one. Another year of experience in the offensive system can only help Lorenzen as well. We're not expecting a Pro Bowl campaign from Manning this season, but little adjustments and changes here and there could go a long way toward a much better season.

Camp Closeup

Strength of unit: Eli Manning's entering his fourth season and if there ever was a time for him to take off, it is now. The Giants are hopeful a new coaching staff and approach will make a world of difference.

Weakness of unit: It's yet to be determined if Manning can make the necessary jump, especially after he and the offense lost the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

Key additions: Anthony Wright. He brings 19 career starts with him.

Key losses: None.

Darkhorse: Jared Lorenzen. He's going to have to really step it up to remain number two.

On the spot: Tim Hasselbeck. We refuse to count him out, as so many have done before. But it sure does look like a tough row to hoe for Hasselbeck this time around.

Vital stats

Mirror image: In 2006, Manning threw 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Last season it was 24 and 18. While that's certainly not a terrible ratio, the Giants offense needs more improvement in this department.

Higher yield: Believe it or not, Manning completed seven more passes last season than the year before – for more than 500 fewer yards! In 2005, 294 completions netted him 3,762 yards while last season it took 301 completed passes to garner only 3,244 yards.

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