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Eli Manning identifies key areas to improve

Posted Jul 18, 2016

Eli Manning discusses the progress of the offense under new coordinator Mike Sullivan and new QB coach Frank Cignetti

This season, Eli Manning enters his third year working with Ben McAdoo, but for the first time it won’t as quarterback and offensive coordinator. Instead it will be quarterback and head coach, with Mike Sullivan stepping into the role of coordinator. Sullivan served as Manning’s quarterbacks coach last season, and in 2010 and 2011.

Despite the shuffling of responsibilities and job titles, the Giants quarterback does not expect the offense to undergo any level of significant change this year.

“I think it will be an evolution,” Manning said. “With Coach McAdoo still here, it is still his offense with a lot of the same plays. Each year you’ll always add more plays, see what’s been working, what hasn’t been working, what I like personally, what players you have and what offense fits their skill set. It should be similar with some new added plays to what we do well.”

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Manning’s new position coach, Frank Cignetti, was the Rams offensive coordinator last year, and their quarterbacks coach between 2012 and 2014.

“It’s been great working with Coach Cignetti,” Manning said. “He’s been around this offense for a long time, coached a lot of quarterbacks. He’s a smart man. It’s been good working with him, getting on the same page, and talking the same language.”

Last year, the Giants offense ranked eighth in the NFL in yards per game (372) and sixth in points per game (26.2). Even with those impressive numbers, there are a couple of areas where the team would like to improve in 2016.

The first is in the red zone, where the Giants only scored touchdowns on 48 percent of their red zone possessions, 10th worst in the league. It would be easy to point the finger at the rushing attack since the Giants only had five rushing touchdowns last year, tied for second-fewest in the league. But Manning knows the passing game can be more efficient in those situations as well.

“We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities,” Manning said. “When we have a chance for a touchdown, we have to complete them. We have to avoid the negative plays. You can’t run the ball on first down, lose five yards. You can’t afford sacks or turnovers. When you get down there, you have to be crisper and you have to play a little faster and take advantage of the opportunities that are there.”

Another area where the team would like to improve is efficiency with the deep ball, pushing the ball down the field more.

According to Pro Football Focus, only 10.5 percent of Eli Manning’s passes traveled 20 yards or more in the air last season. Among quarterbacks with 49 or more attempts of that distance, it was the fourth-lowest percentage in the league. He was in the middle of that same group in terms of yards gained via those passes and accuracy. Manning only threw one interception on such passes, however, which tied for second-best in that same group.

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“We have to throw it more and give our receivers a chance to make plays and catch the ball,” Manning said. “It’s dependent on what the defense is doing, too. We’ve got to be able to find completions if they are going to play zone and play soft. Let’s force them to come press us up and be more aggressive, and then we can get our shots down the field. When we throw them, we’ve got to hit them.”

The Giants have one of the most explosive deep threats in football in Odell Beckham Jr. and they hope a returning Victor Cruz give them a similar weapon on the other side of the field. Dwayne Harris returns as a reliable wide receiver who can play inside and outside.

Manning hopes two young receivers can help complement the veterans within the offense.

Sterling Shepard was the Giants second round pick out of Oklahoma in this year’s draft.

“Sterling has done a good job during OTA’s and minicamps,” Manning said. “He did a great job just picking up the offense. The whole time he caught the ball well. His routes were run well. But knowing the timing of the offense, the different checks that come up, the different routes and adjustments that can be made, that’s when he started playing much faster towards the end of the OTA’s.”

Geramy Davis was the Giants’ 2015 sixth round pick out of the University of Connecticut.

“Geramy Davis also had a big spring,” Manning added. “He’s a big bodied guy that can go up and get the ball. He made some nice plays for us. Happy to see him progress nicely, and we’ll need him to play well for us this year.”

OTA’s and veteran minicamp is in shorts and T-shirts, and while the addition of pads in training camp have a larger effect on the guys in the trenches, it also impacts the skill position players.

“For receivers, it is more physical with the pads on,” Manning explained. “DB’s (defensive backs), when they press, linebackers with the tight ends, it might be harder to get your releases and those sorts of things. For the offensive skill set, it is still working on your timing. For me, just throwing with shoulder pads will be an adjustment since it’s been a few months since I’ve done that. Looking forward to getting the pads on and seeing how we progress.”

The Giants hope their offense can build on the success from last year and become one of the most feared in the league. The process continues when training camp opens on July 28 and the team practices for the first time the following day.