EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Victor Cruz missed the entire offseason and Hakeem Nicks a large chunk of it, but Eli Manning today gave the Giants' starting wide receivers a favorable review for their work early in training camp.
"I think both guys have done well," said Manning, who is in his 10th Giants training camp. "Hakeem made some great snags the first day, coming out of breaks well and good speed. Victor started off right where he left off and making catches and making good decisions. He seems quick out of his breaks and full speed, so I've been pleased with our receivers so far and how everybody is doing. We've got to keep that same pace."
PHOTOS: TRAINING CAMP PRACTICE](http://www.giants.com/photos/photos/Giants-Training-Camp-Practice-7-29/63a7b246-4061-4afc-9a95-de37bbe15d7b)
Nicks, slowed most of last season by knee and foot injuries, left yesterday's practice early with tightness in his groin. But Manning seems unconcerned.
"Hakeem is being smart," Manning said. "He is coming off some injuries. He's going to take it slow and do what he's got to do to make sure when he's out there he is full speed and is prepared for these preseason games and the start of the regular season. We have some time and it is early on and he has been limited in some practices over the spring, so we just want to make sure he goes at his pace that's going to keep him healthy for the upcoming year."
While Nicks and Cruz are entrenched as the Giants' top two wideouts, the competition for playing time behind them is heating up. Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan are among those trying to make a favorable impression.
"The biggest thing for these young guys is just learning your assignments," Manning said. "There's going to be different things like learning how to get open, but for these young guys it's making sure they know what they're doing, understanding the concepts, the schemes, what their route is, what the whole route is. Sometimes your route…you're trying to get someone else open by doing the right thing and as we get more into training camp and put more of the offense in, all of a sudden some things start to bleed together, so they really have to concentrate and study hard, understanding their assignments and what their route is based on all of the coverages."
While Manning's receivers haven't changed, he will have a new starting running back lining up behind him. Ahmad Bradshaw now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. David Wilson, the team's first-round draft choice in 2012, is running with the first unit with Andre Brown in close pursuit.
Manning said he is eager to see what they can accomplish.
"Andre has been here a number of years and knows the system well and played well for us last year before he got injured (on Nov. 25, when he fractured his fibula)," Manning said. "David is a different style of back than we've ever really had here at the Giants over the years (with) a lot of speed and explosiveness. We have to see what's the best way to use him. He might have some different runs that help him use his talents to the best of his ability. It will be interesting to see how things change up a little bit. Both of them are different style runners and we'll kind of understand that and put them in to do the things that they're best at."
As the coaches like to point out, a Giants running back's most important job is protecting Manning. If they can't stonewall a blitzing linebacker – as Bradshaw frequently did – they'll likely have fewer opportunities to run the ball.
Manning is doing what he can to ensure the backs understand their protection assignments.
"We'll work a lot on pass protection and also their routes out of the backfield - just understanding the ins and outs of it," Manning said. "A lot of that is during practice. Right now, a lot of it is our base passing game and so you're talking to receivers. You'll have a lot of time in the film room to watch the receivers, but on the field as other groups are going, trying to get with those young running backs and just talk to them about the ins and outs of that passing game. When there are blitzes, they've got to get out on to their routes and sometimes they have to uncover the receivers by doing their right assignments and doing it the correct way. Everybody has to work together in doing the right things for us to have success."
Finally, Manning was asked about general manager Jerry Reese's declaration that he wants to place a Super Bowl countdown in the locker room. Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 – 188 days away.
As always, Manning took the news in stride.
"A goal at the end of the year is to always play in a Super Bowl and to win a Super Bowl," said Manning, who was the MVP in each of the Super Bowl victories he started. "It's good to have those long-term goals that you want to have. You have to make the short-term goals as well, and we have to each day get better at something and each practice be focused on doing our jobs well and doing it at a high level.
"It's kind of good to have it there as a reminder, but we have to also worry about this next practice and these preseason games and handle our business and doing everything well to make sure we are getting into the playoffs and hopefully be able to make a run."