Five Giant issues: Eli Manning

There were plenty of things that went wrong in the New York Giants’ title defense in 2012.

This week we are taking a look at five issues that kept the Giants from making it back to the playoffs one season after winning it all.

We’ve already looked at the pass rush, Corey Webster’s struggles, missing intangibles and Hakeem Nicks’ injuries. Today, we explore Eli Manning’s up and down season.

The numbers: Manning completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,948 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Manning had a streak of three consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 61 percent completion rate snapped in 2012.

The reasons: Manning set career-highs with 510 passing yards against Tampa Bay in Week 2 comeback win and five touchdowns against Philadelphia in the season finale. He also beat the Redskins in their first meeting with a 77-yard bomb to Victor Cruz for the win.

The Giants offense put up 429 points, the second-highest in franchise history, and scored 47 touchdowns for the second straight season. But the offense disappeared for stretches and the Giants often had to settle for too many field goals -- they kicked 33 field goals, 14 more than they did in 2011.

After having the best season of his career in 2011 with 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, Manning had 10 games in 2012 in which he threw for one touchdown or none at all.

The franchise quarterback passed for 300 yards or more in a game only three times and none after Week 7, which is very surprising. And Manning had a rare three-game stretch from Weeks 8-10 in which he failed to throw for a touchdown at all.

There were grumblings of a tired arm after seeing Manning go through the worst three-game stretch of his career since his rookie season. And when the Giants absolutely needed Manning at his best with a playoff spot on the line, Manning threw for a total of 311 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in losses at Atlanta and Baltimore.

Now to be fair to Manning, he basically was robbed of one of his most explosive weapons due to Nicks’ knee injury. He had a new tight end to develop in Martellus Bennett and didn't have a consistent third receiving threat to replace Mario Manningham. But Manning had a new tight end and new third receiver to develop entering 2011 as well.

Manning’s offensive line had to deal with injuries as Sean Locklear and David Diehl split time at right tackle and Chris Snee and center David Baas were hampered by injuries. Despite that, Manning was only sacked 19 times, down from 28 the season before.

Of course, the defense did not help Manning’s cause by finishing ranked 31st in the NFL in total defense for the first time sine 1966.

Still, Manning’s timing was off with more than just Nicks. Manning just did not seem as sharp as he was in 2011 and on a few occasions he missed deep passes that he usually connects on with Cruz and other receivers.

The big play was missing as the Giants saw the number of passing plays of 40 yards or longer dip from 18 during the 2011 regular season to 10 this past season.

How to improve: Plenty went wrong in 2012 for the Giants to miss the playoffs and the blame deserves to be spread all around.

But if Manning was a tad sharper, the Giants might’ve won one more game to get into the playoffs. In 2011, he almost willed the Giants to the Super Bowl with so many exciting fourth-quarter comebacks, big plays and a gusty NFC Championship performance.

Manning said he was healthy and did not have anything physically wrong with him. So it’s a good bet that Manning will rebound in 2013.

We’ll have to see who he will have around him, though. Left tackle Will Beatty and left guard Kevin Boothe are free agents and it remains to be seen who will be starting next season at right tackle.

A healthier Nicks will be a major boost and a second year with Bennett, who is a free agent, can only help. And if Rueben Randle can develop into a third threat and David Wilson can emerge in the running game, Manning will have more weapons at his disposal for a bounce-back season.

Tell us below what you thought of Manning’s 2012 season.