Manning believes Giants offense can be ready for season
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Eli Manning still has high hopes for the New York Giants' offense despite a dreadful preseason.
Heading into the preseason finale at New England on Thursday night, the Giants first team has scored 10 points in 12 possessions.
It certainly is not what everyone expected heading into the season.
All the offseason talk was how well the Giants would do in their second season in the West Coast offense with Manning coming off a big season at quarterback and having a full year to work with receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The expectations increased with the thought of Victor Cruz returning from knee surgery and combining with the improving Rueben Randle to give New York a big three at the wide receiver spots.
Even the running game was supposed to improve with changes on the offensive line, a healthy Rashad Jennings and the addition of third-down back Shane Vereen.
It just hasn't clicked - yet.
''I think we have been close on some stuff down the field on some big plays,'' Manning said. ''We can't be close anymore. We need to hit on it.''
Manning said part of the problem has been injuries. Left tackle Will Beatty has missed training camp with a pectoral injury. Cruz has been sidelined the past two weeks with a calf injury and will not play in a preseason game. Randle returned last week after being bothered by tendinitis in his knee.
The timing also has been off for the offense.
A two-time Super Bowl MVP, Manning hopes things pick up next week. Cruz is expected back at practice, which means everyone would be healthy except Beatty, who probably won't be ready to play until mid-October, at the earliest.
Manning said the offense also will benefit once it gets into game-planning for the season opener at Dallas on Sept. 13.
There is little game planning in the preseason. Most offenses use base plays.
Coach Tom Coughlin probably will have his starters play a series or two on Thursday.
''You kind of never know what you are going to get out of the defense; who is going to be playing or what their scheme will be,'' Manning said. ''Whatever they do, we'll see if we can adjust and move the ball.''
Manning has not done that. He has completed 20 of 38 passes for 159 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He had a 52.6 percent completion rate and a 52.4 quarterback rating. His one drive of significance was a 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive against the Jets last weekend.
Manning downplayed the statistics.
''You always like to go out there and have completions and score points,'' Manning said. ''But it's not going to affect (my) confidence in any way.''
Manning said Cruz was looking good until he hurt his calf. Once he gets back he will have work to do to catch up.
''It will be a work in progress,'' Manning said. ''That's OK. We have a long season and you have time to work and practice and get better at everything.''
NOTES: Coughlin said he uses the fourth preseason game to watch his fringe players vie for roster spots. ... Veteran Steve Weatherford is now the only punter on the team. The Giants cut Robert Malone on Tuesday. Coughlin still wants Weatherford to be more directional with his punts, have better hang time and put the ball outside the numbers. ''He's been on and off,'' Coughlin said. ... Safety Stevie Brown, who was signed Monday, had an interception in practice Tuesday. So did CB Trevin Wade. ... Coughlin said the Giants have not been allowed to exam defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's hand since he injured it in a July 4 fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul has not signed his contract tender so he remains unsigned.
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