A year ago at this time New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was facing ankle surgery and wondering what it was going to take to learn a new offense for the first time in his NFL career. He admitted Tuesday in an interview with Giants.com that "there was a lot of anxiousness."
Heading into the 2015 season there may still be anxiousness. That anxiousness, however, is because Manning can't wait to get started. Like Giants fans, he can't wait to see what will happen in Year 2 with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator.
"I'm excited about this upcoming season," Manning said. "This year I feel great about the system. My body feels good. I am excited about coming in and knowing what I need to improve on and make strides in, rather than learning a complete new system."
Despite all of the obstacles, and maybe partially because of both the new system and the presence of Odell Beckham Jr., 2014 was Manning's best statistical season since 2011. He erased the doubts that he could no longer play ata high level, He finished with a career-best completion percentage of 63.1, his 30 touchdown passes were one short of a career high, and his 14 interceptions were his lowest total since 2009.
As a team, the Giants finished 10th in the NFL in total offense one year after they were ranked 28th. They averaged 367.2 yards a game, a 59.7 yards-per-game improvement over their 2013 average of 307.5. The Giants totaled 5,875 net yards in 2014, the fourth-highest total in franchise history. Still, the Giants went 6-10 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.
"I'm not pleased with the amounts of wins. That is the important thing," Manning said. "There are still some situations that we need to get better at and that I need to improve on and, as an offense, we need to improve on. (We need to make sure) we are taking care of what needs to be done during the course of the game to put us in a situation to win, or if we got opportunities in the fourth quarter, to be at our best and win our games in those situations. There is definitely still some room for improvement, but I feel good that I can play at a high level in this system and can definitely make improvements and we can win a lot of games and play a lot better this year."
With luck, the Giants will have Beckham and Victor Cruz together for a full season. They played less than two full games together a season ago. They added pass-catching back Shane Vereen. They hope for continued improvement from young players Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell and Andre Williams. They hope that re-structured offensive line, with Weston Richburg likely at center and Geoff Schwartz healthy will not only protect Manning but open more holes in the running game. With a year of experience, perhaps McAdoo will be even more comfortable calling plays.
Running back Rashad Jennings recently said he believes the Giants' offense can be "dominant" in 2015.
The Giants, and their fans, can only hope all this is optimism proves to be well-founded.