A new coaching staff and general manager means a much-needed clean slate for several players on the New York Giants; several of whom faced a difficult 2017 and criticism for their actions on and off the field.
And Eli Manning, under a different set of circumstances, has his own clean slate. Inexplicably benched in Week 12 of last season, Manning has a mulligan year for 2018.
The Giants quarterback struggled last year with some of his lowest numbers of a career that spans four Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl MVPs. Given the offensive line and injuries to key players, it is surprising that Manning did as well as he did in 2017 with key numbers such as completion percentage (61.6) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.46), still on par with his career averages (59.8 and 1.49). This, despite the 31 sacks taken is the second-highest of his career.
“When you have a new coaching staff, you have to prove to them that you are ready, can get the job done and can be prepared,” Manning said on Tuesday. “I try and get better every day, pick their brain, make sure I am doing what they want me to do and what they expect from me. I think that is what you try and do every year. You have to go out there and produce, make plays on Sunday.”
The Giants began minicamp Tuesday, brimming with optimism after an offseason where they rebuilt the offensive line, got younger and deeper on defense and selected running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall. A new coaching staff can also provide a certain spark to a team, especially after the dour regime of the past two years.
The clean slate certainly extends to Manning, especially after a down year when some openly wondered if the Giants would draft his replacement. In fact, Manning said that the selection of Barkley shows that “they think I can still perform at a high level.”
With a new head coach in Pat Shurmur, there has to be hope that the Giants can turn things around, especially as he comes in with an offense-minded background.
They were a frustrating offense a year ago, one that didn’t run effectively or block well for Manning. Moving the ball was a challenge during the first third of the season, even before injuries began to decimate the team at wide receiver.
Now with Shurmur on the sidelines, the hope is that the Giants can re-ignite the offense.
Shurmur has been impressed by his initial interactions with Manning.
“I was expecting to see a guy that was a two-time Super Bowl winner,” Shurmur said on Tuesday. “I’m always surprised at how smart he is and at how things — I don’t want to say come easy to him because he studies — but he has a great feel for the game and that great feel for the game is backed up by a heck of a lot of work. And so when you have that combination, a guy that can really see the game and then a guy that really works at it, then I think the sky is the limit.”
Even though there is much talk about Odell Beckham Jr. and his prominent role within the team, as well as the drafting of Barkley, this is still Manning’s team. If the Giants can keep Manning upright, this team can take a big step back towards the playoffs.