By Sean Hartnett
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On paper everything was going against Eli Manning as he walked out onto Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Having to contend with All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and minus of his one of his top targets in Mario Manningham, conventional wisdom suggested that it would be a rough day at the office for Eli.
Instead, Manning torched the Eagles’ heralded secondary that includes Asomugha and fellow yearly All-Pro selection Asante Samuel. Have a look at the stat lines of the duo and you’ll see that neither managed an interception or pass deflected on Sunday. Actually, Asomugha didn’t even register a single tackle against the Giants.
Does Philly still view their Eagles as a ‘Dream Team?’ All you need to do is take a quick glance at some of the Philadelphia daily papers and Eagles blogs to see how quickly a city and fanbase is souring on Asomugha.
Kevin Callahan of The Cherry Hill Courier-Post described Asomugha’s pitiful performance on Sunday: “It was a pair of misses by Asomugha in Sunday’s crushing 29-16 loss to the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field that has him quickly becoming the face of a failed defense. Asomugha missed on a sideline tackle in the first quarter, then failed to knock down a floating pass in the four quarter. Both went for touchdowns — touchdowns he could’ve prevented.”
That’s one way of viewing it but another is simply that Manning had a terrific Week 3 against top opposition in a difficult away atmosphere. His sparkling completion percentage of 69.6% with 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions are as good as one could possibly get against the Eagles at ‘The Linc.’ Matt Ryan didn’t even perform as well against the Eagles a week earlier at the Georgia Dome and I don’t expect Tom Brady to match Manning’s statistics when he visits Philly in Week 12.
It’s time that Manning is given credit for what he actually is – a top 10 NFL quarterback. No longer should he be the whipping boy of New York back pages, radio hosts and fans when things go wrong. Last season, his record of 25 interceptions was the product of his receivers’ gaffes. Once Manningham returns, Eli will have two talented targets in Manningham and the superb Hakeem Nicks.
Another emerging star could be Victor Cruz who enjoyed a big day in Philly as he scored his first two career touchdowns and logged 74 receiving yards. The Paterson, New Jersey native is a bit of a rough diamond as his early NFL career was hampered by injury and he played in the less-publicized NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision for the UMass Minutemen. Even before yesterday’s breakout performance, Cruz was considered a raw talent with a great deal of potential.
With up-and-coming group of receivers around him, Manning could have a resurgent year of high touchdown totals and decreased interceptions. In 2010, Manning threw 11 more interceptions than the 14 he registered in 2009 but his completion percentages were almost identical.
A quarterback can only go as far as the talent around him and Manning’s current targets can help him get back to a level near All-Pro. Sunday provided ample evidence that Eli is on his way back to reclaiming the confidence of Giants fans and becoming feared once again around the NFL.
Giants fans – is Manning setting a course for a potential career year? What do you make of the progress of Cruz? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.