EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When Golden Tate joined the Giants as a free agent in March, he expected to catch numerous passes thrown by Eli Manning. Tomorrow night, three months and one day after the season opener, he will finally get his chance to catch his first.
Tate and Manning will be on the field together in a regular-season game for the first time when the Giants face the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field. Their union was delayed first by Tate's four-game NFL suspension, which sidelined him for the season's first four games. When he returned in Week 5, rookie Daniel Jones was playing his third game as the Giants' new starting quarterback in place of Manning.
Jones suffered a high ankle sprain last week and will not play tomorrow, opening the door for Manning to make his first start wince Week 2 – and first with Tate in uniform.
"I'm excited about an opportunity to get out there and play with him," Tate said. "This is my first time being in the regular season playing with him, so we'll see what happens. I thought in the offseason we did a pretty good job of building connections.
"You go back to April, May, June, July, August and even preseason games, I played with Eli. It was probably a little bit tougher getting used to D.J. (Jones), because I hadn't played with him at all through the process. I understand football, and I understand where the holes in the defense are and how to handle certain situations. So, I expected Eli and I to continue what we've been doing. I thought we had a great week of practice. We hit just about every ball that was thrown our way. If we didn't hit it, we went back and 'Hey, do you think I'm late or you're late? Am I early? What are you seeing there?' Just kind of understanding it in case it happens in the game. Just talking through things. I don't think you necessarily have to run every play 100 times between him and I to get it done. Just kind of making sure we're on the same page."
Manning and Tate certainly have the experience to establish a quick connection. The former has thrown 8,061 regular-season passes, while the latter has 647 catches. They have no shared stats, but that should end tomorrow.
"I'm crazy about both of our quarterbacks, actually all three of them, including (Alex) Tanney," Tate said. "I think they all do some great things and Eli's time is here again and I want to do my best job to help us win, and that's it."
The Giants' focus is squarely on ending their eight-game losing streak and defeating an Eagles team that has had their number in recent seasons. But special attention will certainly be on Manning, the franchise icon who had started 232 of the previous 233 games before coach Pat Shurmur installed Jones as the starter. Manning is less than a month shy of his 39th birthday and he hasn't played in almost three months. But the Giants are confident he will perform well and are excited to be part of what could be an inspiring comeback story, even if it's for just one game.
"I'm definitely happy for him," linebacker Alec Ogletree said of his fellow captain. "He's been a true professional ever since he got benched. He's done nothing but come to work every day, just continue to help Daniel grow. You see he still continues to work just like the rest of us. That's all you can ask for. I'm definitely blessed and thankful to having been a part of playing with him. He's done it for a long time. He's been a big part of what it means to be a Giant. You're just happy for him. He's getting another opportunity this week to play. We look to go out there and do well."
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was asked what it's like to play again with Manning.
"Pretty cool," Shepard said. "I'll catch with him after practice sometimes and catch a few balls for him here and there during individuals. To have it be in a live game will be pretty cool."
Manning's coaches and teammates have been impressed with how he has handled his business each week as the No. 2 quarterback. Indeed, if you simply followed and observed him off the field, you'd never know he was no longer No. 1.
"He's been a pro all the way through this," Shurmur said. "He has tried to help Daniel when he was the starter. Now he's trying to do his very best to be a starter for us and win a game.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who works with the quarterbacks during the position drills in practice, believes Manning will be unaffected by his long layoff.
"I just think it's a matter of getting back out there, getting that first snap and going," Shula said. "It's kind of like, probably the same question you would ask me if we had taken a break from the end of OTAs to training camp, that type of thing."
This will be Manning's 32th start vs. the Eagles, including two in the postseason, and his 17th in Lincoln Financial Field, which houses a famously hostile crowd. Ge certainly won't be rattled in that environment.
"He knows exactly what to expect from them, exactly what to expect from that crowd," Tate said. "He's had a ton of primetime games, so I don't think that's going to faze him. I think we just need to all bond together when we go down there, wherever it is, and see what happens."
"He is a model of consistency," Shurmur said of Manning. "He has been for a very long time. No matter what his role has been, he's been the same every day. Same energy level, and he's had a great week of practice. I look forward to seeing him perform on Monday night."
*The Giants today announced that punter Riley Dixon has signed a three-year contract extension.
Dixon has been one of the NFL's most consistent punters since joining the Giants in a trade with the Denver Broncos on April 23, 2018. He has punted 46 times this season and career-best averages in both gross (47.0, sixth in the NFL), and net yardage (42.8, fifth in the league and on pace to set a franchise record). Dixon has placed 20 inside the 20-yard line – matching his total for the entire 2018 season - and Giants opponents have only 110 return yards in 12 games. His longest punt was 62 yards two weeks ago at Chicago.
In his first season with the Giants in 2018, Dixon set a team record with a 41.8-yard net average on 71 punts.
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