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Giants' Manning looks a bit off

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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Sept. 17, 2011 @ 2:37 a.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Giants QB Eli Manning didn't play a terrible game in Week One, but he was far from perfect. In fact, Manning was hardly even the player we have come to know in a largely successful eight-year career. Drawing too many conclusions from one game is dangerous, but our spies in New York have confirmed what we have seen: Manning has been off since football has been back in business.

Defining "off" also is a tricky business. Is he distracted? Bored? Not motivated? There is no evidence whatsoever of those being factors, so we must rule them out for now. All we can go by is how Manning has performed on the field this summer, and it has been subpar, including training-camp practices, preseason games and the Week One opener.

We can report that Manning's demeanor in the locker room appears to have changed little; if anything, we hear, he has been more stoic than usual. When asked about the possibility of having to play without WR Hakeem Nicks (bone bruise), Manning said it wouldn't affect him one bit.

That's the straight-as-an-arrow Manning we have come to know over the years. Nothing seems to affect him, and it's a quality that head coach Tom Coughlin loves in Manning. He recently turned 30 and has talked openly of enjoying fatherhood. Manning seems as mentally sturdy and steady as he ever has.

But he has struggled to move the ball and has lacked conviction and accuracy on his throws. Our sources wonder if he misses WR Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss, his best over-the-middle and underneath targets. They also wonder if Manning is adjusting to a new center, David Baas, the first new one he has had to work with in years, after the losses of Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert.

Just so it's clear, there are no alarm bells going off in New York. Manning has had his share of blah games over the years, and he isn't very excitable to begin with, so making blanket statements about his body language or streaky play is a faulty judgment so early in the season.

But there is concern. The Giants, amid all their troubles and tumult since the lockout ended, need a firm leader, and Manning must raise his level of play or else much will crumble around him. That is certain.

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