EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - For the past two seasons, Eli Manning has felt a little awkward heading into the New York Giants’ preseason opener.
It has nothing to do with the football. It’s the lack of it that has bothered the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Coach Ben McAdoo has sat Manning in the preseason opener the past two seasons and he has been forced to watch Ryan Nassib get the start last year and Josh Johnson get the call this year.
So while he threw a couple of balls and put on his uniform before a 20-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago Friday, that was about it.
“You’re kind of not included in some of the stuff,” Manning said Saturday looking forward to his preseason debut on Monday night in Cleveland.
“The guys got a game plan sheet and they didn’t give me one, so it’s still a little awkward. I like to be out there with my teammates. I like to be out knowing I get to play a little and compete. But I understand what he is trying to do as well and appreciate it.”
Manning said his goals for Monday will be getting some live action and trying to get on the same page with receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Evan Engram. The 33-year-old Marshall signed with the Giants as a free agent, while Engram was New York’s first-round pick in the draft.
The negative, of course, is that Manning won’t be wearing a red shirt like in practice. The Browns can hit the 36-year-old while he is getting used to feeling the pressure in the pocket, moving around and finding his receivers.
Manning has spent the past three weeks in training camp, making sure his receivers are where he wants them to be, particularly Marshall who is in his first year in the offense after spending the past two years with the Jets.
“We have always talked about as a quarterback, you got to be a great receiver coach,” Manning said. “That is part of the job. You have to be able to coach up receivers and talk to them about giving their sticks and giving them depth. You have to tell them exactly how you want them to do it and be on the same page with them.”
Manning will have a lot more options this season with his receivers. Odell Beckham Jr. was his go-to guy last season with rookie Sterling Shepard getting the second call. Both are back this season and Marshall, Engram and Shane Vereen coming out of the backfield give him a lot of options.
The big problem might be keeping everybody happy.
“I think you want to get everybody involved,” Manning said. “I think that’s good and that’s when we’ll be at our best, when we have all the guys getting catches, feeling involved in the offense. But you can’t get overly concerned with if someone doesn’t have a catch, then you have to go out of your way to force a throw to them and that’s going to affect the team.”
Heading into his 14th season, Manning said he is intrigued about the idea of calling his own plays, but he knows that isn’t going to happen.
“I think I’d keep repeating a lot of calls, just some of the staples that I like,” Manning said. “I would just mark it off and get to the next one. Right now, it’s third down, what are you going to call? First down is getting into a rhythm. I appreciate the effort and the work that goes into calling a game.”
This week, he is just happy to be playing again.
NOTES: Starting CB Eli Apple (ankle) is questionable. … WRs Dwayne Harris (upper body) and Darius Powe (hamstring) probably won’t play. … LB Keenan Robinson is in the NFL concussion protocol. … S Landon Collins was a monster in the preseason opener. “When I’m on the field, I’m going to be full speed,” he said. “I don’t know any other speed. If I go half speed, I feel like I’m going to get hurt.
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