Eli Manning still building chemistry with WRs

New York Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks struggled throughout the 2012 campaign, and building chemistry with Manning is the first step towards a bounce-back year in 2013.

The Giants' offense hasn't been very productive this preseason. Deep down, we know that's not a problem for the team as the regular season approaches. Preseason team performance is historically pretty meaningless. And yet, when that's all there is to go on, preseason stats start to tell an ominous story.

The Giants have averaged 281 net yards per game this preseason and quarterback Eli Manning has completed just 43 percent of his passes. If that even carries over a little bit to the regular season, New York will be doomed to mediocrity or worse in 2013. Good thing there is still time to get things right.

"We have to play better. We have to be better in the red zone and convert on third downs, so there's some room for improvement," said Manning this week. "I thought this past week against the Jets we did a pretty good job of picking up some of their blitzes and overload blitzes and a lot of different looks, things we haven't exactly prepared for."

It seemed unusual for the Jets to use exotic schemes in the preseason, which is a time when most teams like to keep their plans close to the vest. In the regular season, the Giants should be more prepared for what a specific team plans to do on defense.

There's still plenty to be concerned about, though. For example, Manning would like to improve his chemistry with Nicks, who battled injuries for most of 2012 while posting career lows in receiving yards and touchdowns. The lack of production from Nicks is a big reason why New York struggled down the stretch last year, and the connection between quarterback and wide receiver is something to focus on for Manning.

"We've got to get back to where we're both playing at a high level," said Manning. "The throws have got to be better. The routes have got to be better. It's kind of a combination of both of them on some and just a little off on a few things."

If Nicks can stay healthy this season, it would be huge for the Giants, who only saw the wide receiver catch two touchdown passes while recording zero 100-yard receiving games after Week 2 of 2012. This year, Manning hopes that Nicks can be stronger at the end of the season than he is at the beginning.

"I think through the course of the season you should get stronger as the season goes," said Manning. "You hope that you're going to be at a high level that first game, but the fact is you should be working on things and improving and have lots of practices to get better over the course of the year. So we're going to keep working on our timing, our technique, our decision-making and get on the same page."

The Giants as a team must be stronger in November and December than they are now if they hope to contend for a playoff spot in 2013.

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