For most NFL players, the month separating June's mandatory minicamp and July's training camp represents the last chance to relax and get away from football before the NFL grind truly begins. For Eli Manning and the Giants receivers, the hard work has already begun.
Speaking to the media after the conclusion of minicamp last week, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo addressed the progress he has seen in the offense's quest to get comfortable with the new scheme.
"After 12 practices, by no stretch of the imagination do we have everything mastered,'' Ben McAdoo said. "We're making small strides. Our goal is to be sound, smart, tough and committed to discipline and poise. At this point in time, we're not there. But we're getting close.''
It is the first offensive coordinator change Eli Manning has experienced in his eleven-year career. So long the beneficiary of offensive coordinator consistency, Manning's focus at this point is much more on learning and getting comfortable than it is on the mastery of an offense. The learning of a new system though may not even be the biggest obstacle for the Giants passing game to overcome. It may have been Manning's tenth season in Kevin Gilbride's offense last year, but the Giants' passing game looked anything but in-sync. 29.6% of Eli Manning's 27 league-leading interceptions were chalked up to quarterback-receiver miscommunications, by far the highest percentage in the league for any quarterback.
The lack of ability to maintain chemistry with the likes of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks last season clearly hurt the team's passing game in a big way, with Cruz and Nicks missing chunks of both OTAs and training camp for various reasons. Speaking to the media back in January, Cruz attested to underestimating the impact of missing valuable time.
"Honestly, I thought we'd go in and we'd pick it up right where we left off," Cruz said. "Especially with guys like that that have been around and done it before, like myself and Hakeem. It goes to show you it takes a lot more than just that. You've got to build a lot more continuity and more trust mentally with your quarterback. … You could definitely feel it throughout the season. You could see it from game to game that our productivity wasn't there." The group has a different feel to it now, with 2009 first rounder Nicks making way for 2014 first rounder Odell Beckham Jr. and Mario Manningham returning to the fold after two injury-plagued seasons with the 49ers. Chemistry with the two, particularly Manningham, may take a while to get going given they have both been sidelined with injuries for a good deal of time since joining the team. With that said, the simplicity of McAdoo's route running principles compared to Gilbride's should help to keep miscommunications to a minimum, and has already won the praise of the Giants receivers.
"There are not that many reads so you can go out and play faster and get everything going," Said Jerrel Jernigan. "You don't have to think as much."
Jernigan's quote is the latest to support a scheme that has the Giants excited for the potential of how good this offense can be. The learning of a new system is always difficult, but a fresh approach could be what the team needs to revitalize Eli Manning's career and get him returning to his best football. Kevin Gilbride was not always the most popular figure amongst Giants fans and McAdoo brings concepts that have helped showcase Aaron Rodgers as one of the league's most dangerous players. The potential is there for this offense to be one of the league's most explosive once the team is comfortable in the system, but the real key will be Manning establishing a much stronger bond with the team's receivers than what existed last year.