On Target

Eli Manning continues to prove he's for real. Not that anyone that knows anything about Manning had any doubt, of course. Through four games, Manning had a ridiculously high completion percentage and was on pace to break the Giants' all-time accuracy mark.

A quarter of the way into the current season, Manning's emphasis on improving his accuracy has paid dividends. He has completed 67.12 percent of his passes (98-of-146), a 27 percent improvement over his final 2005 percentage. Manning was third among the 33 rated quarterbacks in last week's NFL statistics. Only Houston's David Carr and Kansas City's Damon Huard were ahead of Manning. And they have thrown 35 and 42 fewer passes, respectively, than the Giants' quarterback.

This, a year after Manning finished a lowly 31st in the league with a 52.8 mark (294-of-557). Manning, of course struggled mightily during his seven starts as a rookie, compiling only a 48.2 completion percentage.

"The progress has been steady," Tom Coughlin said. "He's benefited tremendously from his 17 games a year ago. He has the great study habits and the work habits, and it's very, very important to him. He learns with each experience, and I just think he's making progress. He's getting better all the time."

But it's been especially obvious this season, when he's basically been lights out.

"This year he's a little more vocal and a little more confident with the offense and where everybody's going and what everybody should be doing," backup QB Jared Lorenzen said. "Just walking around, you can see that he's a more confident person. He's fitting in this league very well and playing really well. He's phenomenal."

Lorenzen said Manning's high accuracy mark is mostly due to his comfort level in New York's offense.

"He knows where to go," Lorenzen continued. "He knows when to check down and when not to check down and his receivers are making the plays. Just based on him it's his confidence level. With him, he's always expecting to play well. He wasn't going to make any excuses for being a rookie or that it was his first year starting. But this year he's making all the right checks and all the right throws."

Tim Carter has certainly benefited from Manning's strong start.

"I just think he's comfortable in the offense," Carter said. "He knows where he wants to go with the ball and he's just out there making plays. The more time you're in a system and the more experience you get, obviously the better he's going to play.

"You can definitely tell he's more comfortable."

The humble Manning, of course, would take very little credit for his excellent first quarter of the season.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of things; it's not just one thing," he said. "I think it's the receivers doing their job, those guys getting open. Everybody on the same page with what the routes are, the offensive line protecting and being able to stay in the pocket and wait for the receivers to get open. Not having to run out of the pocket and throw the ball away. Guys catching the ball. For me, it's making faster decisions. If I don't like a defense, just getting the quick completion instead of waiting to see if someone may get open. So it's really a combination of a lot of things."

Manning also cautioned that there's more to games than just how many passes he completes.

"You can have a high completion percentage, but if you're checking down on third down that's no good," he explained. "You can have a high completion percentage and still get killed."

Yet the positives are obvious as well.

"Having a higher completion percentage allows you to be in better situations on third down," he said. "Instead of third-and-eight, you can have a third-and-three."

Manning cemented his place on the NFL map by leading the Giants all the way back in Philadelphia. Yet, it was his demeanor and confidence the following week during a tough loss in Seattle that impressed the most.

"Even in that Seattle game, everything went wrong yet he kept saying all we need is a score before half," Lorenzen said. "He's just extremely confident in what he's doing. He knows it's an extremely long game so that if he messes up once he's not going to make that same mistake again."

And it's obvious that the more accurate Manning becomes, the easier it is to play receiver. Those guys subconsciously might give an extra ounce of effort knowing there's a better chance they'll get the ball.

"They're going to work that much harder," Lorenzen said. "Instead of one or two passes coming your way, you're going to get six or seven."

"He's making good decisions and always getting the ball where it needs to be," Amani Toomer said. "It's that simple."

Again, Manning refused to take any personal credit.

"It's everybody executing," he said. "It's not all me. It's the guys making great catches, getting open and doing the right things.

"I've grown in the offense. If you know where you're going to go, use your eyes to get the ball there. It's knowing when to get the ball underneath and get the ball to Tiki, but also knowing when to take your shots downfield at the right time, if you have guys there open also."

So far, he's been mixing up the short and long passing games like a seasoned vet.

Yet there's still three more months to go before the final numbers will be written. Of course, wins and losses are all that matter, but Manning and Co. sure wouldn't mind seeing him have the most accurate season ever by a Giants signal-caller.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Giants quarterback to lead the NFL in completion percentage was Norm Snead in 1972 – at 60.3 percent.

If Manning can maintain his accurate pace for the rest of the year he will set a Giants record. Manning's predecessor, Kurt Warner, set the current single-season mark of 62.81 percent in 2004. Warner, who was replaced by the then-rookie after nine games, threw only 277 passes. The Giants record for a quarterback with at least 400 attempts is 61.75 (Phil Simms, 1993) and the mark with at least 500 passes is 61.46 (Kerry Collins, 2003).

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