Explaining Eli Manning’s Early Season Interceptions

By Jay Cullen
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Eli Manning is first in yards this season. Problem is, he’s also first in picks. Manning has had interception issues throughout his career, and even recently threw as many as 25 of them in 2010. It has always been something to work on, as he has not thrown under 15 interceptions since 2009 (when he threw 14). Manning can be careless at times, and also likes to take chances deep, something that can really jack up interception numbers. This year, Manning has been atrocious, though. After two games, he has seven picks, a staggering number for someone who is perceived as a top quarterback.

The question is why has he been so bad? Has it simply been bad decision making? If so, what kind of decisions does he need to improve on? Is it just bad luck? Is it his receivers fault? In short, it is all of these to some degree.

The strangest finding that one gets from examining his picks is that he has thrown two on screen passes. The first was an interception against the Dallas Cowboys that went straight to DeMarcus Ware. It was a bad throw, plain and simple. The next was a play to Da’Rel Scott, the ball bounced off his hands and right to Brandon Carr. It was unlucky and likely Scott’s fault, making it hard to blame Manning. Still, both screens failed, which suggests that those kinds of plays might not work well for the New York Giants.

The real culprit for Manning has been deep throws, though. Manning has thrown seven interceptions, but four have been on long passes. Manning has thrown many of those interceptions into defenses with two deep safeties. Manning has long struggled at throwing against cover-2 defenses, but has especially had trouble this year. The reason is twofold.

One, Manning has thrown so many deep passes. Partially this was because the Giants have been down big, but he and the Giants must have the patience not to immediately keep chucking deep passes. The second cause is that Manning has had to play against more two-deep safeties than usual. The Giants cannot run the ball, and teams have reacted by never having eight in the box. That means it is easy for both safeties to start deep. When the opposing team knows a throw is coming, it makes it very hard on quarterbacks

Manning has made some bad mistakes, but a lot is fixable. If the Giants can run the ball even a little better, it will help a lot. Furthermore, if the Giants can give him more easy throws like wide receiver screens or slants, he could benefit greatly.

Jay Cullen is a New York Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter or add him on Google.

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