EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning says he doesn't care what the outside perception of the New York Giants' offense is, and Manning is easy to believe when he says such things. He is certainly accomplished enough in his career that he has no need to care about outside perception, and he has generally carried himself like someone unaffected by it. The fact that the passing game didn't show much in the preseason doesn't thrill him, but he is not bothered by how much it's worrying the fans.
So as the Giants begin their official preparations for their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit, Manning is focusing on the things the Giants' offense did well in the preseason, and choosing to build on those.
"I think we've been running the ball well," Manning said after Monday morning's practice. "I think we need to get better in the passing attack, finding completions, hitting some big plays down the field. But we've been doing that in practice, so we've made some strides and made some plays, and we just have to keep protecting the ball and playing smart. We've gotten ourselves into some pretty good third-down situations as of late. We've just got to convert them."
Manning has, throughout the summer, painted a picture of an offense that is almost there. He also said last week that he expected this new offense, under first-year coordinator Ben McAdoo, to remain a work in progress throughout at least part of the season. The trick will be finding ways to win games while everyone is still getting fully up to speed.
"The big thing happening in the preseason, the reason we won a couple of games, is because we didn't beat ourselves," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "If you look at the numbers, you can see that. So that is something we can hang our hat on, regardless of what the statistics are."
You can start to imagine a plan in which the Giants get things started this season with a run-heavy offensive game plan whose emphasis is on limiting turnovers, then build a passing game off of that as the season goes along. Not that they would admit to something like that, but it might make sense since they feel good about their defense and the ability of their offensive line to at least block the run.
"I have been practicing and I know exactly what we are capable of," wide receiver Victor Cruz said, when asked his reasons for optimism. "I know all of the things we've implemented that are beneficial to us and can benefit us on game day, and I'm excited to put that to the test come Monday Night."
That is when we will start finding out just what the Giants believe they're able to do with their offense right now, and maybe what they might have to wait until later in the season to try.