The New York Giants first preseason game is this week. The game against the Cleveland Browns will be the first opportunity for fans and coaches alike to see the new offense in action in a game-like setting.
Questions abound regarding many parts of the offense. But after the Giants passed on a quarterback with the second pick in the 2018 draft, none are more important than the questions about Eli Manning, Davis Webb, and Kyle Lauletta.
Fittingly, those were the primary subjects when Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Shula spoke to the media before Monday’s practice.
Eli Manning getting ready for the grind
As pretty much everyone knows, the Giants’ starting quarterback is 37 years old and likely in the final years of his career. But while the Giants have managed the snaps for veteran players like Jonathan Stewart and Damon Harrison, and even young players like Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley, Manning has carried a rather full load.
Shula says that the team relies on Eli himself to help monitor his workload, saying, “We do have to continue to monitor that and we do that verbally as well saying, ‘hey, you’ve got to be honest with us, make sure we’re not giving you too much’, but Eli does such a good job of taking care of himself physically, he starts in the offseason and just knows how to get his arm ready for the grind now, he’s done a great job.”
Of course, the Giants also have to get their quarterback on the same page with his surrounding players in the new offense. That has to happen on the field, and because of that the coaches can’t hold Manning back much, Shula added. “We’ve pushed the envelope a bit with his reps just because of the newness of what we’re doing, we want him feeling really good, not just about what he’s doing but just getting him together with the guys that are going to be there on Sundays, the timing and all of the little adjustments that they’re going to have to make.”
In addition to his snap-count, reporters were curious whether Manning still has the athleticism to maneuver in the pocket and extend plays if needed.
“Was Dan Marino mobile enough to extend plays? I think he was,” Shula said. “The first thing that comes to my mind when you ask that is, you’ll see those guys – Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip (Rivers), they just navigate that pocket just enough to extend the play where it’s going to allow a receiver to get open.”
Shula added, “Whether it’s in the pocket late in the down or once you get outside, I think he knows what he can do and what he can’t do once he is outside of the pocket.”
The Giants’ new offense might call on Eli to play out of the pocket more than he has in the past. While Eli might be more athletic than Peyton Manning, that isn’t the highest bar to clear, Shula was still confident that Eli can execute the offense.
“Now we probably won’t feature that,” Shula said about the quarterback playing outside of the pocket, “but we’re definitely going to have that enough to compliment what we do. I think guys like Eli (Manning) and some other guys that maybe aren’t known for their running ability, it becomes more deceptive for you as an offense because teams aren’t looking for it as much.”
Davis Webb “striving for consistency”
Webb, who enters the preseason as the Giants’ primary backup quarterback, is something of an unknown to both fans and the Giants’ new coaching staff.
“Davis has done a nice job, we’ve talked about him in our staff meetings. He’s like a lot of guys, striving for consistency. When you watch practice, you see big plays by him or on the other side you see interceptions and it’s like one extreme or the other, but there’s a lot of things that he’s done since day one of the OTAs where he’s working and has gotten the negative plays minimized. He’s still got some work to do there but he’s more consistent in making sound decisions.”
But for the inconsistencies in Webb’s game, Shula is still very excited to see him on the field Thursday evening.
“Yeah, for sure,” Shula said when asked if he was looking forward to seeing Webb play. “He works so hard at it and you can tell it means a lot to him, and it does with a lot of guys, you’re always rooting for those guys. I think the biggest thing that Davis, as well as any other young guy going into their second year, is don’t try and do too much, just make sound decisions, decisions that help keep our offense on the field. Sometimes those decisions are throwaways so we can go play the next down, but yes I’m excited because he prepares hard and he’s talented and he’s shown some really good things out there.”
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Webb’s game for the media is his arm strength. Our own Ed Valentine has remarked that there have been some throws in camp which only Webb could have me. Shula was asked whether that arm strength was a blessing or a curse.
“Yes to all of that,” he said.
He added, “In all seriousness, obviously you like a guy with a strong arm but, again, the most important thing is that you’re getting the ball to the right guy, getting the ball there accurately and getting the ball there on time. ... In my experience with guys that have strong arms, the biggest thing is don’t let that be the reason for you to think you can fit every ball in there, where it’s a dangerous throw or a tight throw, where something exciting is going to happen, a big catch, an interception or someone getting hit hard. We don’t want to live in that world. We want to pick and choose when we have those really good looks. Other than that, make a good decision somewhere else.”
Kyle Lauletta has “a calmness about him”
Many expected the Giants to draft a quarterback this year, but most predictions had them choosing one with the second overall pick. And they did draft a quarterback, but rather than with the second pick of the draft, they used the 108th pick — their fifth of the draft.
So far, Shula likes what he has seen from the rookie out of Richmond.
“He’s done a really good job as well,” he said. “He’s kind of got a calmness about him, especially for a rookie, that you don’t see a lot in young guys. I’m anxious to see him, as well, just to see the whole transition, I think, for the same reason you guys are. Coming from Richmond, when I first saw him and heard about him, every time I’ve seen him he’s continued to get better. In the Senior Bowl he looked well, in the (NFL) combine he looked well, he’s been here, started out doing well and has gotten better. So we’re just going to try to get him in with a lot of the other young guys and give them the things that they’ve had the most reps on and let them go play.”
The big concern for Lauletta coming out of college was his arm strength, or rather his lack of an exceptional arm. But while he doesn’t have a big arm, Shula notes that he does have accuracy and anticipation, and those are useful traits as well for quarterbacks.
“Now,” Shula said, “he might not have a cannon but he’s accurate and gets the ball there on time. There’s a little bit of a difference with a guy being able to throw it 75 yards or a guy having good arm strength on all of the intermediate levels. Even some of the deeper throws, he’s probably completed as many deep balls as anyone has at this camp so far. If someone would have asked you that, you may have said, ‘No, he’d be the last guy I’d think of for that.’
“It’s throwing to the right guy, getting the ball there on time and getting the ball there accurately. So arm strength doesn’t mean you’re going to get the ball there on time. If you look at the guys throughout the league, there’s a lot of guys who don’t have extremely strong arms but those guys that are playing in the NFL that don’t have that have great anticipation, great timing and great accuracy, and I think he is in that mold. Now, he’s a young guy and he’s only played in college but I think he fits that mold, he’s got really good anticipation, good accuracy and good touch. There’s been a lot of very, very successful quarterbacks in this league, Hall of Famers, that haven’t had cannons but have had those other qualities.”