It must have seemed like night and day for Eli Manning, the difference between his first minicamp and his second.
"Every day I feel more comfortable," he said. "The game has slowed down a lot for me."
It was obvious. As Manning was tossing the ball all over the place when he first got to New York in early May, including hitting a tackling dummy that was at the line of scrimmage, he was quite the opposite when the Giants began the June portion of their offseason program.
Manning threw the ball much better and appeared much more at ease in the huddle and between plays. Both he and Coughlin readily admit that the prized rookie had so much to deal with mentally that some of his physical skills were affected.
Manning likened the new playbook to "learning a new language." Often he would get to the line of scrimmage thinking he knew the formation and routes only to find out that he had his Ole Miss terminology in his head. While that still happened on occasion, those lapses were significantly fewer than in May.
He was able to make some of the throws that made onlookers ooh and ahh. In May, many of Manning's tosses elicited different noises.
"I want to make good decisions and the right reads," Manning said. "You can make a bad throw, but you want your reads to be right."
Coughlin's seen a bunch of improvement from Manning.
"Yes I have – practice will do that," he said. "(He has) a little bit of understanding about what we are trying to get done. It is a foreign language when a young player, or any player, comes to a new program. You have to understand all of the things that he went through. The first time he saw anything, he had one hour of meeting time."
Some of the extra pressure on Manning was removed when New York signed Kurt Warner, who's expected to start the year.
"It's not like this is a big surprise," Manning said. "I was prepared for it. I was fine with it. My goal is for the Giants to do well."
While Manning would obviously love to be the starter from the get-go, like his brother Peyton was in Indianapolis, he said he understands the Giants decision.
"When I was in college I didn't start (after a redshirt year)," he recalled. "I came in and competed and worked. It's just a situation you have to deal with, and I think it worked out fine."
"You never know the best way for someone to progress. But I'm planning to play. I'm just taking practice seriously and that's all I can worry about."
The Giants' powers-that-be think that Warner's presence will aid Manning's development; rather than stunt it.
"Absolutely," GM Ernie Accorsi said. "Anytime that a young quarterback has a veteran who has the credentials and the winning history that he has had, has to help a young quarterback. First of all, Kurt had a tough start to his career. He had a tough finish. He reached the pinnacle in between. So, for a young quarterback who is obviously going to get down at times, to have someone there, that is a big help. I have seen that all through my career where a veteran quarterback makes that kind of difference."
"I talked to Eli Manning when he was drafted," Coughlin said. "I told Eli that Eli is the quarterback of the future of the New York Giants whether he started the first game, the fourth game, the ninth game, the first game of the following year...whatever, however that was going to play out, he is the quarterback of the future. I think that theme remains how I would say it right now. I did talk to him in advance of Kurt coming in and signing, I also talked to Kurt about Eli. So that has been pretty well established and the reasoning that was used has been well expressed."
Accorsi said Manning wasn't going to be thrust into the lineup regardless of the Warner signing.
"He wouldn't have been forced anyway," Accorsi said. "I think if we would have just stayed with what we had, if Tom felt he wasn't ready, we would have played someone else. It is just a degree of how good is that guy going to be. The pressure is off in a sense, but if I am good enough I can play, if I am not ready, then somebody is there that we can win with. That part of it I think is better. But there is going to be pressure on him anyway, his first year."
You could see the relationship budding between Manning and Warner right from the start, with both men speaking often on the field during practice sessions.
Warner, who said he fully expects to get the starting nod, believes he can help Manning.
"There's so much to this position that I'm hoping I can tutor him in whatever way I can, both on and off the field," he said. "Whatever advice he can use from me, whatever questions he has, any way I can help."
"He's going to be a great quarterback."
The road to greatness starts for Manning on July 29, when he begins his first professional summer camp.
"I think I'll be a little more comfortable at training camp," he said. "I'll know all the players and plays."
How the Mannings fared during their college days:
Manning Comp. Att. Yards Pct. Yds./Gm TD INT Rating
Archie 402 761 4,753 52.8 169.8 31 38 107.5
Peyton 863 1,381 11,201 62.4 254.0 89 30 147.1
Eli 807 1,332 9,860 60.6 234.8 79 34 137.2
Eye on Eli
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