Toomer: Eli Manning can right the ship
QB threw way too many picks, but remember: He had patchwork corps of wideouts
Manning threw for 4,002 yards and 31 touchdowns but had a league-high 25 interceptions, with some of them going off the hands of his own receivers.
"I think he took a step sideways," Toomer said while signing autographs at the Broadway play "Lombardi" last week. "I think in some ways he got better and in some ways he got worse. Twenty-five interceptions. I don't care how many tipped interceptions, it is not good.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/David DupreyAmani Toomer and Eli Manning helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl in 2008.
"But he did do it with a lot of people that he didn't really feel that comfortable with," the former Giants receiver continued. "Knowing Eli, I didn't think he was really comfortable with anybody, and I think that really hurt."
It was hard for Manning to get comfy last season with five of his receivers landing on injured reserve. Manning probably could have used the retired Toomer. The QB also had to work behind an offensive line that had its regular starting five for only six games.
There was a lack of chemistry between Manning and his receivers at times due, in part, to the absence of his most-trusted receiver.
Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith missed seven games due to pectoral and knee injuries. Hakeem Nicks, Manning's biggest playmaker, missed three games due to a leg injury. And Manning had to get late-season additions Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas up to speed in late November when many of his main receivers were banged up.
Manning admitted it was hard to get completely in sync with his receivers, citing how Mario Manningham was moved all around the field in different positions due to the injuries.
Toomer, the franchise's all-time leading receiver, could see that the timing and precision needed between a quarterback and his receivers was off, affecting Manning's trust that his receivers would be in the right spot at all times.
There were also occasions when Manning pressed and tried too hard to make a play by forcing throws.
Manning insisted, "I'm not a 25-interception quarterback," and Toomer agrees that the interception problem can be fixed.
"Oh yeah, he can right the ship," Toomer said. "It is just a matter of them getting healthy and the receivers maturing a little bit."
Toomer said he would like to see tight end Kevin Boss utilized in the passing game more. Boss, who underwent a minor scope on his hip Wednesday, had 35 receptions for 531 yards and five touchdowns. He has averaged 36.6 receptions and 494 yards receiving in the past three seasons.
"I think if they can implement [Boss] in the offense a little bit more next season, they will be more of a challenge to defend. Because right now you have to defend the run game, do some things to try to slow down the receivers, and if they play that Cover 2, he is right in the middle of it and needs to make more big plays."
Boss' contract is up, and the Giants will wait until there is a new collective bargaining agreement before making any decisions about the future.
Toomer is thrilled to see coach Tom Coughlin return. Toomer, who had 668 receptions for 9,497 yards and 54 touchdowns with the Giants from 1996-2008, said the Giants organization made the right move in keeping the head coach despite missing the postseason for the second straight year.
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"You can't sneeze at a 10-6 season," Toomer said. "I was totally for it because the team is very close to being a Super Bowl team. If they were to blow the whole team up, they would have to start all over again, and I don't think they need to go in that direction just yet.
"The Giants know their personnel better than anybody else, and they know what went wrong better than anybody."
One of the major things that went wrong was the lack of ball security, as the Giants led the NFL with 42 turnovers.
As Manning enters his prime, having just turned 30, Toomer thinks his former quarterback and team are closer to returning to their magical 2007 season than to missing the postseason again next season.
"I think they are close to a Super Bowl," he repeated. "You take away one or two games here or there -- I know a lot of teams can say that, but I know a lot of teams, once they saw the Giants were eliminated from the playoffs, were breathing a sigh of relief."
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