Archie Manning: Eli's now a player

Archie Manning expects that his son, Eli, will make significant strides this season. "The biggest jump anybody has is from year one to year two," Manning said in an exclusive interview with TGI. "You know what to expect. You're just able to go about your business better, with a better understanding of what this league's all about."

In addition to the fact that Kurt Warner is no longer present and Eli's the starter, he said his son would be more comfortable in his second season because of experience.

"Anybody that's in their second year, you have to feel more a part of it," he said. "There's one thing about this league. You can disregard the rookie thing. You're either a rookie or you're not a rookie. You're a rookie, then you're a player."

But both Mannings warned that there's still a learning curve.

"That's kind of what everybody says, ‘You see the most improvement from first year to second year'," Eli said. "But again, you can't just say, ‘That's what everybody else has done so that's what's going to happen.' You still have to go to work and you still have to get better and you can't just count on anything like that. I have to look at myself and look at what I've done and what I need to improve on to become a better quarterback and to be part of an effective offense."

"You're going to have your struggles, there are going to be those Sunday struggles," Archie added, "but there's somewhat of a comfort zone there and a confidence thing."

Nowhere was that more evident than with Eli's older brother, Peyton. As a rookie – and top overall pick – in 1998, Peyton threw 28 interceptions. The following year, he led the Colts to a 13-3 record while throwing only 15 picks.

"There are going to be some bumps and bruises, but the experience you gain your rookie year will pay off in your second season," Peyton said in New York in mid-July. "You just feel more comfortable. You've seen the blitz a little bit, you've seen some different coverages. He's still going to see the full gamut this year, but you feel more comfortable your second season."

The eldest Manning stopped by Giants Stadium to watch practice during the team's final OTA session in mid-June.

"Tom (Coughlin) told me at that point that Eli had a really good offseason," Archie said. "He's worked really hard, he really has."

Archie doesn't expect his son will fall victim to overconfidence.

"He has a good understanding," he said. "He knows how hard the position he's playing is. He knows how hard it is to win a game in this league and how much work it takes."

His fatherly advice as his youngest son sets sail on season number two?

"All I ever tell him is just try to get better every day," Archie said. "I just told him to keep working hard. As a young quarterback, you just strive to do something to get better every day."

Eli said he knows what he wants to get out of his first full training camp as the starting quarterback.

"I think that I need to always have a plan," he said. "If I am seeing the field right, if I know what I am doing with the ball…even if I have to check the ball down or throw an incompletion as long as I'm thinking that I am making the right reads and seeing the field well for now then that is an indication that I am doing my job and getting better."

With the starting job securely his, it's allowed Manning to become more of a leader.

"Yeah, I think I have to," he said. "I think that's part of the job of being a quarterback, you have to have control of your huddle and control of your offense. I think that's something that comes along with gaining confidence in your game and if you have an understanding of the offense, you can talk to the players more, you can tell what you want to do, because you know what they're supposed to be doing."

That differs tremendously from the position he was in last season.

"Last year I'm still trying to learn the offense, they're trying to learn it, and I'm not always sure I'm right and going to tell them something where I could be wrong," he explained. "Where this year I have a better feel and know what they're supposed to be doing."

What they're saying: Needless to say, Manning was the major topic of conversation as camp began. Here's what his coach, coordinator and a couple of his teammates had to say about Eli entering year number two.

"Eli's progress has been very good. He had a very good offseason, he studied, he worked hard, he had a good spring, he has good knowledge of what we want to take place. So I feel good about him being on track." – Tom Coughlin

"He studied, he worked hard, he got bigger, he got stronger, he met with his coach four times a week, he reviewed all of last year, he went over everything that was going to be put in for the spring. Eli looked at tapes of other teams and of other quarterbacks and he has prepared himself well." - Coughlin

"Well I thought you've seen Eli progress last year. At the end of the year, the last three games, we did have more success offensively, we did have a good offensive game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, we didn't win the football game, but we had a decent offensive game against Cincinnati but did not win that football game and he played well and played well at a very crucial part of the last game in the last two minutes and we won the football game. So I thought that was an important growing stage in his career and obviously with good hard work that he did in the offseason, both in the classroom and in the weight room and on the practice field, and now with a good hard month of training camp, we expect that growth to continue." – offensive coordinator John Hufnagel

"He's probably exactly how I thought he would be. He's very serious about this. He takes it really seriously, but he also has fun with it. He works hard. He prepares hard. He really wants to be a great quarterback. It's fun being around a guy like that." – roommate QB Tim Hasselbeck

"He's more comfortable with the offense now, his head is not spinning. The rest remains to be seen. He's developing into a guy taking charge in the huddle. That just comes with time. He's a quarterback that's not going to try to do too much. He knows what he needs to do and he's going to do that. He's not going to try to take over a game or do something that he's not capable of doing at this point in his career." – fullback Jim Finn

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