Greg Cosell has posted a column about Eli Manning. It’s worth reading in full. Here are a few excerpts:
In 2011, I saw significant improvement in two other elements of Manning’s game: progression reading and pocket movement, with the corollary ability to extend plays outside the pocket. We all remember the 38-yard completion to Mario Manningham late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI; it was the single biggest play in the game. It also reflected many of the attributes that I have often written about, beginning with pre-snap recognition of the coverage.
It was Cover 2, with both New England Patriots safeties split, each responsible for one deep half of the field. The initial read for Manning was to the right, the two-receiver side. (Manningham was the single wide receiver to the left of the formation.) When Eli hit his plant step in the pocket, the routes to his progression side (the right) were not defined. He did not have a clear picture. There was no throw. Manning knew he had Manningham on the back-side fade. It was the safety to that side, not the corner, that he had to beat to make that throw.
Remember all this is happening instantaneously, within a three-second time frame. Without any hesitation, Manning pulled the trigger. It was the throw that made that play far more than the catch. He dropped the ball right into Manningham’s hands, in the only spot that made a completion possible.
The other part of Manning’s game that dramatically improved in 2011, and I believe it was a defining reason as to why he had his best season yet, was his efficiency moving both within the pocket and outside the pocket. As I’ve discussed numerous times, pocket mobility is an essential trait to perform consistently at a high level. Manning, once a little frenzied and out of control when he was forced to react in response to the pass rush, is now more poised and composed. His movement is more deliberate and calculated. His downfield focus is sharper, with better clarity. In addition, his ability to extend plays on the perimeter was particularly evident last season. In years past, there were times Manning would be somewhat scattershot with his throws off movement. That deficiency has been lessened, and it’s led to better overall play. It’s a huge reason why Manning elevated his game in 2011.