Before the season began, experts predicted that Giants' QB Eli Manning would be in for a long year. Based on the physical punishment he took down the stretch last season and no major changes made to the offensive line, many felt he would be in deep trouble.
Well, here we are in Week 7 and not only is Eli fit as a fiddle, the line is playing better than it has is several seasons. Manning has been sacked a league-low four times, and that includes games vs the Eagles and 49ers who usually make Eli's life miserable.
"I’m not sure. But, I’m not complaining about it," said Eli when asked what has changed on the line since last season. "They’re playing great, we’re running the ball well, the pass protection has been good, and the receivers have been getting open. Things are going well, everybody’s doing their assignments well, the offense tends to flow a little bit better, I’m not sitting back there, holding the ball very long, and putting the offensive line in a bind. So, it’s been a combination of the running backs helping out, chipping on things. So, it’s been pretty smooth, and hopefully, we keep it that way."
The line has benefited from a consistent lineup that has gelled over the past few weeks: David Baas at center; Chris Snee and Kevin Boothe at guard and Will Beatty and Sean Locklear at tackle. David Diehl is still recovering from a knee strain. He is slowly regaining his form and is expected to take the RT spot back over from Locklear, but there is no urgency to do so.
Tom Coughlin credits Eli's maturity and the continuity on the line for the reduction in sacks and the increase in run production:
"We’ve had some success the last couple of weeks running the ball. We’ve protected the passer well. The passer has…Eli’s gotten rid of the ball when pressured. We challenged our offensive team to run the ball, and we’ve been able to do that, and under very difficult circumstances the last couple of weeks. We’re striving, obviously, to get better. Consistency is an issue. Certainly, up front, the offensive line and defensive line the last week have prepared and performed well."Eli takes things game by game, but he knows the guys up front are bringing every week now for him. He promised to take care of them at the end of the season. Here's more on the subject....
RE: The pass-protection not allowing many sacks:
A: Knowing your protections, knowing when you’ve got a free guy rushing, knowing when you’ve got time to throw, knowing where to go with your progression, having the right people getting open, you’ve just got to understand the circumstances. When do you throw it away? When do you try to wait and get it to your third and fourth receivers? You don’t play to not get sacks. Sometimes, it happens. Sometimes, you’re trying to wait for someone to open up, and it doesn’t work out that way. The receivers have been getting open quickly. The offensive line has been blocking well, and blocking the right guys. You don’t have guys coming in free. The running backs have been doing a great job as well. It’s everybody being a part of that.
Q: The line is so unheralded to the general public. How do you show your appreciation to those guy, if you do at all, after a performance like on Sunday?
A: You just talk to them and you say, “Hey, great job.” They want to run the ball, and they want to protect the quarterback. That’s their goal. They know when we can dominate the line of scrimmage. They can tell and have a sense of pride about that.
Q: There’s also some athleticism that has to come into this not being sacked, right?
A: Right. You’ve got to move around. Sometimes, you’ve got to break the pocket. Sometimes, you’ve got to move in the pocket and buy a little extra time for a receiver to get open. It’s everybody doing their part. Obviously, the offensive line has been playing outstanding. Receivers are getting open, with the running backs getting chips and picking up linebackers, everybody knowing their assignments. Some plays, you’ve got to move around. You’ve got to buy time, you’ve got to break the pocket. Sometimes, that’s fine, as long as you’re kind of moving in the right direction, where you have the opportunity for receivers to get open.
Q: It looked like last week you were hit very early in the game. Were you hit that much after that?
A: No. I don’t think so. Not many times after that first one. We had a little protection breakdown on the first one, which you never want to have. After that, we were very solid.
Q: Can you talk about the offensive line? How they’ve really begun to gel in the last few weeks? No sacks, and two consecutive 100-yard rushing games from Ahmad.
A: It’s great. They’re playing really well, against some good defenses. They’re communicating well, they’re seeing the defenses and just controlling the line-of-scrimmage. They’re being physical and doing a great job in pass-protection and just giving us a chance to get the ball down the field.