Eli Manning’s struggles related to issues versus pressure

Neil Hornsby explains how Eli Manning's dip in play over recent seasons has coincided with his performance against the blitz.

| 6 months ago
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Eli Manning’s struggles related to issues versus pressure


I was engaged in a Twitter discussion the other day over the success (or lack thereof) that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning—ranked 26th in overall grade among QBs in 2015—has had versus pressure in recent seasons, and ended up doing some research on how the QB has performed.

(Some of the argument had to do with semantics, as a recent article labeled Manning as being good at handling the blitz because he avoided sacks on blitzed plays at a high rate, but for the purposes of this article, we will define “versus the blitz” as when a defense rushes extra defenders, and “against pressure” as when a defense is able to affect a QB through a sack, hit or hurry.)

As it turns out, a lot of Manning’s recent dip in play has coincided with a drop-off in his performance when under pressure and when facing the blitz.

Let’s start with the blitz. As you can see from the charts below, this wasn’t a strong-suit for Manning last season:

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.37.20 AM

Those numbers aren’t encouraging, but how does Manning do when the pass-rush actually gets to him? (That’s how we measure pressure at PFF.) It depends which time frame you look at.

When Manning last won the Super Bowl in 2011, his play under pressure was remarkable. He was the second-most-pressured quarterback in the league (after Philadelphia’s Michael Vick), and yet his adjusted completion percentage versus pressure of 69.1 percent was the second-best in the league behind only the Saints’ Drew Brees.

More importantly, Manning put together what I still consider to be the best playoff run by any signal-caller since we’ve been grading games here at PFF, finishing the year as PFF’s No. 5 QB while putting up off-the-chart grades in the playoffs overall—and in the Super Bowl, specifically.

But as his overall grades have dropped over the past four seasons, so have his grades versus pressure. The chart below displays his grades from a clean pocket in blue, and his grades when under pressure in red. While he’s been an above-average NFL passer each year when throwing from a clean pocket, he has been below-average every year when under pressure.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.39.07 AM

This season, the situation was as bad as ever, with Manning doing adequately with a clean pocket but terribly with defenders in his face.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.32.58 AM

In summary, if you’re looking for a reason for Manning’s overall decline in play the last few seasons, a good place to start is how he has performed when the opposing pass-rush got to him.

That’s a big problem entering 2016 if the Giants can’t provide better pass protection than they did last season. They ranked 22nd overall in the NFL in pass-blocking grades, and their tackle situation was particularly dire—left tackle Ereck Flowers earned the lowest mark in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric as a rookie, while right tackle Marshall Newhouse ranked sixth-worst. The two combined to allow 120 total QB pressures.

The Giants made a lot of investments in their defense this offseason, from free-agent signings Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison on the defensive line to No. 10 overall pick Eli Apple at cornerback. But perhaps the biggest key to the team’s success this season will be how well the offensive line can protect Manning, given how much he has struggled when under pressure the past two seasons.

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Jason

    No way – you mean to tell me that a QB playing behind Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse (the worst OT tandem in football) didn’t do so great when they were hemorrhaging pressure off both edges virtually every single game?

  • crosseyedlemon

    Cutler is 33rd on one chart so the Bears go out and get the guy who is dead last on two other charts…lol. At least the defense seems to be headed in the right direction.

  • AC2

    You guys fell into the Eli Manning vortex. Get out before you really look stupid now or find a legitimately average QB to dump your flawed analytics on, so no one will care.

    Your analysis that Eli is in decline or that he sucks under pressure/against the blitz are all WRONG. What’s hilarious is, these guys really REALLY think they know what the plays are, how they are supposed to develop, and who is really at fault. That’s when PFF analytics go from stupid to pitiable.

    • helene7689

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    • crosseyedlemon

      Throwing a tantrum and stating the data is all wrong is one thing….but pointing out where the errors are would be the more mature approach. I believe I read that 22 NFL teams pay for the PFF analytics so obviously they don’t think it is stupid or pitiable.

      • Troy J Orourke

        its a great tool for the non skilled positions…QB ? come on… do you recall Rodgers 5 TD game a couple yrs back? LOL …. – grade.

  • Paul

    PFF loves to act like they analyze individual performance then throw context right out the window. Impossible to take these guys seriously anymore. The irony is, they want to better inform fans, but they end up looking like the ones who are misinformed.

    Go read Read Football Network instead. Pat Kirwan wrote about Eli Manning against the blitz too.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Hmmm. If it’s impossible to take these guys seriously anymore then why do you bother to read the articles? It sounds like you only consider something informative if it agrees with your own view, but I think most readers appreciate being offered a variety of perspectives to consider.

      • Troy J Orourke

        Thing is, if Eli keeps putting up 63% 4436 yds 35 -14 while continuing to get neg PFF grades due to “short completions” and “complications vs pressure” he will be in the HOF… which do you think is more valid?

  • MikeC4

    How does PFF continue to not factor in the different offenses? Lmao.

    • Troy J Orourke

      EXACTLY!!!!!!!

  • Joe

    Man, pro-football-focus underrates Eli Manning so much. I thin you should call yourselfs the pro-critics-of-football.