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Palladino: Eli’s Surgery An Opportunity For Giants To Build Depth

Eli Manning (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images), Matt Flynn (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Eli Manning (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images), Matt Flynn (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Whether Eli Manning’s arthroscopic ankle surgery was caused by that high ankle sprain he suffered against Washington or some stupid pickup basketball move he made during his annual visit to his and Peyton’s personal guru at Duke is immaterial.

The fact is, just as he was winding down his camp with Blue Demons head coach David Cutcliffe, who mentored both boys as an offensive assistant at Tennessee and Ole Miss, something in that left hinge didn’t feel right, so now there is a good possibility that the Giants’ quarterback will miss a good part of the offseason practices.

On the surface, this seems just short of catastrophic. Save for a certain sector of fans who may have taken an extended trip past the ozone layer, everyone else should know that the Giants are changing offenses. Out goes Kevin Gilbride’s downfield shots, and in comes Ben McAdoo’s West Coast incarnation that has worked so well for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Manning needs to be around for that, of course. Given the disastrous year the quarterback had in 2013, he could use all the field time he can get with Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and his newest target out of the backfield, Rashad Jennings. But chances are he won’t have much opportunity for some quality work, as the Giants will likely go easy with him so he can be full-go for training camp.

Until then, he’ll do his head work — meetings, more meetings, playbook study. And, knowing Eli, he’ll do a fine job of that. The work ethic that creates the special sort of football mind Manning possesses has never been a question. It’s the mechanics and interpersonal chemistry that needs work. They will no longer be part of Manning’s offseason, and that could make things just a bit dicier once he returns to full strength.

And yet, there is a bright spot here. The Giants now need an extra quarterback. With Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster, there exists an opening for one more arm, even if it is a temporary one. While a name like Josh Freeman, due in for a workout next week according to the Daily News, excites no one, another potential workout might.

Matt Flynn could be an ideal pickup here. He’s been around six years, and twice with the Packers. In fact, he started four games under then-quarterbacks coach McAdoo while Rodgers sat injured, and broke even at 2-2 with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

While nobody is going to mistake the current Flynn for another Rodgers, the fact is that it wasn’t so long ago that he was a hot commodity on the free agent market. After finishing the Packers’ 2012 season with single-game franchise records 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Lions, he landed himself $9 million guaranteed from the Seahawks.

Though he didn’t last long out there thanks to the meteoric ascendance of one Russell Wilson, there may still be something worth considering. He knows McAdoo. He knows the system.

Besides, nobody can really get jacked over the prospect of Painter or Nassib backing up Manning. The 28-year-old Flynn, though, gives the Giants a chance to run McAdoo’s offense should the 33-year-old starter go down. Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese have to start thinking about those things now, since even the most durable entities like Manning tend toward frailty the longer their career teeth grow.

Manning undoubtedly will be ready mentally. For any physical or mechanical faults of which he’s guilty, preparation and smarts are not shortcomings. But adding another knowledgeable head like Flynn, one with prior experience in the Giants’ new system, would strengthen the quarterback depth.

So what the Giants have here is not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity. If Flynn indeed comes in for a workout, the Giants should take a good, hard look at him. If the man has anything left, sign him not just as an insurance policy, but as a potential primary backup.

He’s worth it.

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