Manning truly the man

The difference from last year to this is like night and day for Eli Manning, who instantly has become the Giants undisputed leader.

"The whole offseason it's been that way," Manning said. "I've had to get guys out and throw with them. We've been doing it on our own and working in the weight room and watching film and relaying back to these guys what you expect from them and how we have to get better. I thought we got off to a good start. We've been working hard. We have an understanding of the offense and it showed, because we didn't have too many mistakes."

Asked if he is comfortable in the leadership role, Manning said, "I think so. It's going fine. I think everybody is listening, I think everybody understands that I have to play better. I have to go out there and know what I'm doing and I think they expect me to. I think they expect me to and believe that I will."

Tom Coughlin certainly expects him to. The Giants' coach has been impressed with the quarterback's work this offseason, including his review of the 2004 season and his preparation for the team's 2005 opponents. He has seen Manning become more vocal and forceful than he was as a rookie.

"Well, that is the position of leadership," Coughlin said. "Each quarterback does it in a different way. They grow to be more confident in terms of expressing themselves. Now he is going to lead by example, by making plays, by performance, and that is the best way."

Despite being the clear-cut number one, as opposed to playing behind Kurt Warner last year, Manning insists his approach will not change.

"I still have to go out to practice every day and try to compete," he said. "Last year I didn't feel like I was competing against Kurt. I was competing against myself, going out there and trying to improve. And I'm doing the same thing this year. I go out there and try to get better every day and try to learn as much as I can."

At his first rookie mini-camp, Manning was unsure of himself, had a tenuous grasp of the offense and had difficulty completing a pass. This time around, he performed like a seasoned pro: in charge, with vast knowledge of the offense and throwing passes that were right on target.

"You're just more comfortable," Manning said. "Last year you came into mini-camp - I didn't know what I was doing. I was running plays for the first time, throwing to receivers I had never thrown to before. Now, I have an idea of the offense, I've thrown to these receivers, we've been working the whole offseason together. It's a lot easier to come in. You feel more comfortable, you're more confident in what you're doing and your fundamentals are better, so it makes it a lot easier.

"You're in a position where you're the quarterback and you have to make plays and people are expecting things from you because you're a number one pick. When you're the starting quarterback, that's the way it works. That's the way it has been for a long time. At every level you play, if you're the quarterback, you're expected to get things done. That's what I like. That's why I wanted to come here and play quarterback."

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