While Manning can’t match his older brother’s statistics, he is an accomplished quarterback in his own right, one who has won two Super Bowls. And stopping Manning and the Giants’ high-powered offense poses a large problem for the Bucs.
“Eli has two Super Bowl rings,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “It kind of tells you really all you need to know about him. He’s calm. He’s been through a lot as a quarterback, played at a high level for a long period of time.
“When a team has a game like they had last week, when you have a quarterback like that, it’s not like you’re saying, ‘Man, how did that happen?’ When you have a great quarterback and you have good skill guys it can happen at any time, hopefully not this weekend.”
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frasier said Manning already had the attention of the Bucs, who could finish the first half to the season at 4-4 if they can win.
“They have one of the top quarterbacks, in my opinion, in the league,” Frazier said. “He is very, very good and very bright in that pocket. He does a lot of good things with the ball. He definitely has some weapons as well.”
“You have to find a way to rush the quarterback with four. You don’t want to rely on trying to pressure Eli all day. He identifies pressures, he identifies where they are coming from and he gets the ball out fairly quickly. They don’t have a lot of sacks. [They’ve allowed] 12 sacks up to this point. You got to find a way to rush with four and when you do come with five or six it needs to be at the right time. You need to have them disguised well, because he’s pretty good. He’s pretty good.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, still battling his own shoulder injury, praised Manning as well.
“He is good, man,” McCoy said. “He’s got two rings, and arguably the best quarterback in history is his older brother and he’s got more than him. Not only does he have the rings, but he was the MVP of those games. He’s a road warrior, a tough guy, very smart and he’ll light you up if he gets going. So we’ve got a tough one ahead of us this week.”
McCoy said he had not sacked Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers…or Eli.
“You get excited,” McCoy said. “I don’t know if you get amped up more, like more of a sense of urgency, you’ve just got to realize that you’re not facing your average, everyday NFL quarterback. This is one of the elites. But as a defensive lineman, to have a chance to play against a guy of Manning’s status, it’s exciting to me; I don’t know about everybody else. I love this game and I’m a fan of the game, so I’m going to do my best to try to get there instead of just enjoying playing against him.”
Manning’s attack is bolstered by last year’s Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“He does so many things well,” Frazier said. “Obviously his catching radius is wide and varied. He makes some great catches. He’s a great route runner, he has very good speed, good quickness and he can run after the catch. He has a lot of the attributes you look for in a great receiver, a gifted receiver and he presents a lot of problems for teams. They put him in different places sometimes, in the slot, sometimes he’s outside. They move him around. They’ve even lined him up in the backfield. He’s a good player and we’ll have to contend with him this week.”