Eli Manning is looking forward to connecting with his receivers to get real reps in order to get everyone on the same page during Monday Night Football.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– Eli Manning will play in his 46thcareer preseason game Monday night when the Giants face the Cleveland Browns in FirstEnergy Stadium. Given all that he has accomplished in his first 13 NFL seasons, that will not qualify as a memorable event in his career.
But it will be his first action of the current preseason, and that alone makes it significant to Manning and the Giants.
"I think any time you get some live game exposure, you are trying to get on the same page as your receivers," said Manning, who did not play in the opener last week vs. Pittsburgh. "We got a couple new receivers. Make sure everybody is sound in our communication and we are all on the same page, doing the right things. And for the first time in eight months, it is live. Now I know that these guys can hit me, they can tackle me, they can go at me. So I think that getting used to that, feeling things in the pocket, not looking at the rush, but feeling the rush and buying a little extra time or moving in the pocket and finding a completion (are what he will look to accomplish)."
The most notable of the newcomers Manning spoke of are veteran wideout Brandon Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram. Manning worked with them throughout the spring and in training camp, but this will be his first opportunity to connect with them against a defense other than the one he sees every day in practice.
"I think that is big," Manning said. "I think you are always going to learn something from every practice, but especially from every game. They play different coverages or you get a different look and you have to adjust and learn from it. For some of the new guys, we will learn together and be on the same page. It is a great opportunity to go out there and be tested."
Manning has spent time on the field, in meetings, and even in the locker room helping his new teammates learn the nuances of the offense. Marshall spoke early this week about the importance of Manning's role as a teacher.
While it is perhaps more visible now, Manning said giving such instruction is no different than what he's done in previous years.
"You are always going to have new players and you are always going to want to grow," he said. "We have always talked about as a quarterback, you got to be a great receiver coach. That is part of the job. You have to be able to coach up receivers and talk to them about giving their sticks and giving them depth. You have to tell them exactly how you want them to do it and be on the same page with them."
Coach Ben McAdoo said about Manning's playing time on Monday night, "We would like to give him a big chunk of playing time into the second quarter. We will take a look at it as it goes. We will handle it very similarly to how we handled it last year."
But this time they'll expect a better result. In the second preseason game last year, Manning started and played the first four series in Buffalo. He completed four of nine passes for 44 yards in a game the Giants lost, 21-0.
McAdoo said, "ideally", backup quarterbacks Geno Smith, Josh Johnson and Davis Webb will all play, but he declined to talk about their order of appearance after Manning departs.
Manning's personal goals for the preseason have remained the same for many years.
"I think for me it is just finding completions, running the offense smoothly, make sure everybody is on the same page of communication," he said. "Also having great movement in the pocket and not moving too much if you don't need to. Feeling the rush and being able to make subtle movements to get your feet in place, and being able to throw the ball and make smart decisions."
Scrambling and running with the football have never been a major part of Manning's repertoire, but if that's the smartest decision, he'll do it.
"Sometimes, you got to run; sometimes, you got to scramble; sometimes, that is part of it," Manning said. "It's all about quarterback positions and feeling the rush, feeling the throwing lanes, and making plays."
Asked if he looks forward to the first hit, Manning said, "You never look forward to a hit, I don't think, but I think it is good to get it under your belt and know that it will be okay."
He can make the same statement about his first action of the preseason.
*McAdoo said cornerback Eli Apple (ankle) is "questionable" for the game in Cleveland.
*Wide receivers Dwayne Harris (upper body) and Darius Powe (hamstring) probably won't play.
*Linebacker Keenan Robinson is in the NFL concussion protocol.
*McAdoo said several factors will determine how long the starters play.
"You want to take the number of plays into consideration," he said. "That is always important. But also that we have three games in 11 days, that factors as well with some travel in there in two out of the three games. We want to take a good look at some guys in the middle and the bottom end of the roster and give guys who are competing for spots and jobs an opportunity to prove themselves."
*Last week marked the second year in a row McAdoo held Manning out of the preseason opener.
"It's still awkward," Manning said. "You're kind of not included in some of the stuff. The guys (other quarterbacks) got a game plan sheet and they didn't give me one, so it's still a little awkward. I like to be out there with my teammates. I like to be out knowing I get to play a little and compete. But I understand what he (McAdoo) is trying to do as well, and appreciate it."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Browns on Monday Night Football