New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning looks at the collection of talent on this year’s roster, and he likes what he sees.
General manager Jerry Reese, no doubt seeing the massive free-fall the offense took from being the eighth best offense in 2015 and a unit that averaged 25.5 points a game to a 25th overall ranking with an average of 19.4. points per game, added several new faces through both free agency and the draft, including veteran receiver Brandon Marshall, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, tight end Rhett Ellison, and rookie draft pick tight end Even Engram.
Add to that a group to returning veterans such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, an improved (hopefully) offensive line, and the promotion of Paul Perkins as the team’s starting running back, and a case could probably be made for this being one of the most talented groups on offense the Giants have assembled in the Manning era.
“Yes, there is a lot of talented players and you see some young guys and you need some young guys to step up and we’ve added some veteran guys and some of the other guys who have been here a couple of years,” Manning said.
“We have some talented guys so it is a matter of making plays on game day, being in the right position, getting them the ball, and letting them make plays.”
Engram is intriguing in that he not only lines up everywhere on offense, where he presents a mismatch for a defender, he can also stretch the field and make the plays that were missing down the middle of the field.
“Evan is a talented tight end. You know he can run and he can stretch the field,” Manning said. “He has done a good job, you know, again learning the offense and picking up things.
“He is a hard worker so I’ve been impressed with everything so far, but with all the young guys, it’s reps and it’s just seeing what he can handle, how much he can handle, and how much you can move him around and it’s just getting reps with him and going through the routes.”
Marshall, meanwhile, gives Manning a big, physical target in the passing game, and a guy who isn’t afraid to mix it up and throw a block down the field to help the running game, something that was also missing from last year’s game.
“We’ll see when it gets to Sunday and the pads come on and the lights turn on to see how we do, but I’m confident and I’m excited,” head coach Ben McAdoo said of the new-look Giants offense.
And although Manning was sacked just 21 times last season, his lowest total since 2012 when he was sacked just 19 times, a strong argument could probably be made that the low sack total was more of a result of the Giants tendency to get the ball out quicker because of the inconsistent pass protection.
Although it’s still early and nothing can be ascertained for sure until the pads go on, Manning said he’s seen some early signs of progress from his blockers.
“I think the offensive line has done a good job and you have young guys and just like everybody, young guys are going to get better over time, and I think there is the maturity to that and just being able to play fast and understanding your role and understand what you have got to do,” he said.
“See where you have struggled and where you need to make improvements and I think those guys have done that and I think it is going to be a good group.”
The new talent has rejuvenated Manning, who hopes to win at least one more championship before he calls it a career. The first step, though is for the offense to improve in all those areas—average yards, passing yards, rushing, third-down, red zone, and scoring just to name a few—where it lacked punch last year.
“Well, I think we want to get back to where we are scoring points and being explosive and where we can take over a game,” Manning said when asked if the offense has a bit of a chip on its collective shoulder after how last year ended.
“Last year, the defense was playing great and we understood that and we had to do our part. It wasn’t as easy for us last year, but I think honestly, when we are game-planning this offseason when we are doing things we are going in with the expectations that we need to score a lot of points, and that we can score a lot of points and move the ball and be explosive.”