Ron Jaworski's daily "SportsCenter" series counting down the top 30 quarterbacks in the NFL reached the top 5 this morning, and No. 5 on the list was New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The segment has been airing all morning around the bottom of the hour on "SportsCenter," so it's possible you could still catch it.
Jaworski says the biggest area of improvement he saw in Manning in 2011 was in progression reading. He cited and broke down two examples:
1. The Super Bowl pass to Mario Manningham along the left sideline. Jaws says the play was designed to go to the right side, where the Giants had two wide receivers lined up, but that Manning saw that the routes were undefined and then looked left, where he realized he only needed to beat a safety to get the ball to Manningham. Of course, he also had to make an incredible pinpoint throw.
2. A touchdown pass to Manningham in the wild-card game against the Falcons. On that play, Jaws says, the play was designed to go first to Hakeem Nicks, who was taken away by a safety, then to Victor Cruz, who was also covered. Manningham was Manning's third read, but his pre-snap awareness and his ability to progress calmly through his reads helped him deliver.
"Eli Manning is one of the smartest, most aware quarterbacks in the NFL," Jaws says at the end of the segment. "His development over the past three, four years has been steady and consistent. He is now one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was 10th on Jaworski's list, which I guess means he disagrees with Amani Toomer. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was 12th, and Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was, like Colts rookie Andrew Luck, left out of the survey entirely.
The only four left on the list are, in some order, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. I guess you could argue Eli over Peyton on the strength of the two Super Bowl titles and the fact that Peyton hasn't played an NFL game in a year and a half. But there's obviously no shame in being fifth on a list behind that quartet.