At this time last year, the New York Giants were still reeling from an awful 7-9 season in 2013. Quarterback Eli Manning was a month-and-a-half removed from ankle surgery, coming off the worst season of his career. Longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride had been fired, and his replacement, Ben McAdoo, was installing the basics of a brand-new offense amid heavy skepticism.
Now, a year later, things have changed. The Giants haven’t improved at all in terms of wins and losses after a 6-10 season in 2014, but they may have found their offensive footing as 34-year-old Manning has gone through a career rebirth at quarterback.
Looking forward to the 2015 season, things could get even better for Manning in his second year under McAdoo’s guidance—especially since he’s no longer learning on the fly.
“It was big,” Manning said about the full offseason with McAdoo after the team’s first of 10 OTA sessions at Quest Diagnostics Training Center, per the Giants website. “It was important having this last month really, just watching the film, talking about the mechanics of the footwork, being able to go outside with him and work on a lot of drill work. A lot of it is stuff I wasn’t able to do last year.”
Manning mentioned the injury and how it affected him last offseason. His physical limitations made it difficult for Manning to familiarize himself with some McAdoo’s fresh ideas. Now, the passer is healthy and fully understands those once foreign concepts.
Despite wholesale changes to Manning’s mechanics, McAdoo was able to turn the troubled passer’s production around almost immediately. McAdoo milked 30 touchdowns from Manning’s arm, cut his interceptions nearly in half from the year before and boosted his completion percentage to a career-high rate of 63.1 percent.
Heading into the 2015 season, Manning has shed the habits developed during his first decade in pro football and embraced what McAdoo brings to the table as an offensive coordinator.
“I feel comfortable,” Manning told the Giants website. “I feel really good right now and excited about what we can do with this offense.”
Another player who will benefit from a healthy offseason is wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. As a rookie last year, Beckham was the fuel that powered New York’s offense. He finished the season with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns after sitting all summer, plus the first four games of the regular season, with a hamstring injury.
By the time Beckham reached full strength last year, Victor Cruz had been lost to a season-ending knee injury. The duo could be dominant on the field together in 2015, making Manning’s job in Year 2 under McAdoo that much easier.
“Just the possibility of having a receiving corps this strong is something that I think about every day,” Beckham told Giants.com.
Cruz’s injury was a torn patellar tendon, which is a serious setback for a slot receiver. A swift change of direction is pivotal to Cruz’s game, so he cannot afford to have the strength in his legs compromised. The former undrafted rookie is working hard to ensure a healthy return.
“I’m itching, man. I can’t lie,” Cruz said, per the team’s website. “I’m running routes, I’m feeling good. I know there’s still a process, and I’m still a little ways away in terms of strength-wise and things like that, but it feels good. And watching those guys run routes and catch balls and stuff like that—I’m definitely itching to get back out there with them.”
Of course, all of this talk about Manning and his receiving targets will be worthless if the quarterback has no time to throw the ball. Manning’s protection has already taken a devastating blow, as starting left tackle Will Beatty underwent surgery to repair an injured pectoral muscle just last week. The recovery time is five to six months, which could sideline Beatty into November.
Ereck Flowers, New York’s first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, saw first-team reps at left tackle in place of Beatty during the team’s first OTA workout, according to NFL Media’s Kim Jones. Justin Pugh, formerly a right tackle, played left guard, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported. Graziano documented the rest of the lineup as Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and free-agent acquisition Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
The Giants will experiment with this starting lineup, but by no means is it set in stone.
“We just have to move on,” head coach Tom Coughlin told Giants.com about the loss of Beatty. “So our plans are to continue to try to figure out how this line is going to fall out and who’s going to be where. We’ll probably try some different combinations to get there.”
If the Giants can overcome some early adversity up front, the potential is there for Manning and his passing game to help McAdoo’s offense reach new heights in 2015.
*All quotes courtesy of Giants.com.
Kevin Boilard writes about the New York Giants at Bleacher Report
Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com