We thought football would finally be back this past Sunday. But, a field painting snafu lead to the Hall of Fame Game being cancelled. But fear not, we have just four more days until the New York Giants take the field against the Miami Dolphins Friday, Aug. 12th.
Though he isn’t slated to play much, quarterback Eli Manning is still excited to get back on the field.
"Just to get back out there." Manning said, in response to a question asking what he was looking to get out of the first preseason game. "You know for me, at quarterback, it’s been a long time without live action. Where, hey, these guys are rushing for you, you know, they’re trying to sack you. You need to move in the pocket, you’ve got to feel the rush, buy some time. And we’ve got some new guys at the receiver position, get them in the mix and see how they can adjust to things when the defense is going and its live. See if they can play fast and know all their assignments."
The young players knowing their assignments is now, at least partly, on Eli. He has always had a hand in teaching new offensive players, and long held extra meetings for the "skill position" players before games. But now that he is in his third year of McAdoo’s system he is taking a more active role in teaching the kids. Of course, that also means dealing with their mistakes.
"I think you just understand that mistakes are gonna happen." Eli said, "Just going in to the third year of the offense, I understand from their perspective, some stuff was new to me two years ago. I try to kind of tell them things that were tough for me to understand the first time and explain it to them in layman’s terms. Just understand that it’s the first time they’re doing it, it’s not going to be perfect, there’s going to be mistakes. And it’s not a mistake, its just that it can be done better in a lot of ways and you teach off of it. You talk to them, there’s a lot of talking, and that’s how you get better, how you learn. At this stage, you can’t expect it to be perfect, that’s just not how it is. You need to get a rep, get it on tape, and have conversations and get it better next time."
While Eli is in his third year of McAdoo’s offense, the whole team is in it’s first training camp orchestrated by the new head coach. There have been numerous changes, from "stick and move" meetings to the theme from "Fresh Prince" playing during a simulated TV time out — idle wondering, I wonder if they’re playing the version with the second verse? But even the practice schedules have been modified.
"I think its still a matter of trying to get guys to perform well, to be well prepared." Eli said of the changes, "I’ve enjoyed the schedule. We’re doing the installs the night before, coming in the morning doing a quick meeting, but really get out in the field and go. Go practice and hit the film, make some corrections, at night time make some more corrections and start installing again. The schedule is good, you don’t have guys sitting in a meeting room for three or four hours before you get out there on the field. I think things are going well. Now a lot of the offense is installed, and you just hope you can retain all the information and don’t forget what was installed last week, but I think the guys are doing well with that."
Thoughts on Odell Beckham
Other than being cleated by Janoris Jenkins, Giants’ super star receiver Odell Beckham has had a tremendous camp. Over the summer Eli mentioned that Odell needed to continue to step up and improve as a receiver. While that notion probably seems impossible to fans -- and frightening to defenders — Eli has noticed changes in Beckham’s game going into this third year.
"I think Odell, just being even more on the same page with things." Eli said "He’s very in tune with the details of routes and what he’s doing. Just being able to continue to move him to different spots and just grow within the offense. Be able to be on the same page, the right timing, and be that much sharper. It’s not a lot of different routes and different stuff, just a better understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish."
"I think the timing of it." Manning added "I think there’s always a certain route that for whatever reason we struggle with, we’re not in check as we need to be. You can just look at it on film and let’s see if I’m doing something wrong, if [he’s] doing something wrong, we can get on the same page and hit it. You just kinda master one, then find something else and keep working on it until you feel great about all the routes that are in your tree."
Victor Cruz looks "sharp"
One of the biggest storylines of the Giants’ whole offseason is — and last year’s — is the long-awaited return of Victor Cruz. The Giants’ receivers all seem to be taking turns shining, but all eyes are on number 80.
"Victor’s been sharp." Eli said when asked what he has seen from Cruz "I feel like he’s making plays, getting the speed. For me, the biggest difference seeing him back in April to now is just adjusting to the ball. It’s different catching it on the jugs machine, you’re just catching balls and now you, hey, you have to turn back, you’re running full speed. You have adjust, you have to hold the defender off a little bit. Just making those tough catches and adjusting to the ball in the air are things that he’s doing much better now. He just had to get some live action and playing some football.
Feeling his age?
But while camp is new and Eli is surrounded by, and mentoring, young players, he isn’t feeling his age. There has been concern over the summer that as a 35-year-old quarterback, Eli’s physical ability or ability to recover, might be in decline. But if aging is having an effect on him, the Giants quarterback doesn’t notice.
"No, there’s really not." Eli said said, when asked if he’s feeling any differences as he ages. "I feel healthy, I feel like my arm is live, can make all the throws. I think I’ve gotten smarter over the years with my training, with my warm up. Just taking care of my body and having a plan to get through practice to make sure I feel healthy. Where I used to just roll out of bed and just go practice, now I have an hour to get loosened up. It’s just maintenance and stuff I’ve gotten in the routine of doing over the years and I’ve seen the difference."
And it’s a good thing that Eli isn’t feeling his age, that his arm is live and he is taking care of himself. While every team needs every player to step up and contribute, Eli Manning is the bedrock upon which the Giants’ franchise is currently built.
"I think as a quarterback you understand that you have a big responsibility and you have to play well." Eli said when a reporter asked him about Jerry Reese’s remarks that the team is on his back. "You have to take over and I need to do my job and play at a high level. I understand that and I demand that of myself anyway, so I don’t think you try to put added pressure on yourself, just understand that I need to go out there and do my best. I just need to play well."