It is 15 years and counting for the Giants, 15 years of giving thanks they fell so hard and so passionately for Eli Manning.
For 15 years, the Giants, from ownership on down, go to sleep knowing they will not be awakened by anything their franchise quarterback did or did not do in the wee hours of the morning. There was nary a concern Manning ever stepped onto the field and was less than 100 percent prepared. No one in the building ever worried how Manning would take to coaching or if he would show up one of his teammates on the field, in the locker room or in the media.
Manning at 37 is not the player he was a decade ago, but the past two weeks prove he is not washed up. The Giants practiced Thanksgiving morning, were dismissed for the remainder of the day to celebrate the holiday, and on Sunday, they face another win-or-else scenario against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
The climb out of 1-7 now stands at 3-7 for the Giants, with so much more work to be done. Manning in Philadelphia might be great, he might be bad, but he will be there, just like always, providing the entire Giants operation with a sense of calm that he is running the show.
“The way he handles himself is amazing,” Saquon Barkley said. “As a young guy, he’s definitely someone to look up to.”
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Barkley got in on the tail end of Manning’s career, and for however long they are linked, their fates are intertwined. Manning needs Barkley to pound away on the ground to alleviate the pressure on the offensive line to pass-protect play after play. Barkley needs Manning to set him up for success by putting the precocious rookie running back in the most advantageous situations, checking out of bad plays as he diagnoses the opposing defense.
Barkley recounted a recent film session. He was in there, in the dark, for an hour before Manning entered and sat down next to him. Manning is the oldest player on the roster. Barkley, at 21, is the youngest.
Twenty minutes later, Manning’s expertise and giving nature took hold.
“He showed me three things that I didn’t even see,” Barkley said. “That just showed me how far I am from being where I want to be.”
Barkley is coming off a season-high 142-yard rushing performance in a 38-35 victory over the Buccaneers. His decisiveness was noticeably improved by the way he attacked the line of scrimmage.
“I think he’s improved every week, and I think he’s a guy who wants to be great, wants to get better,” Manning said. “There’s something he thinks he can improve on, whether it’s just in a route or in protection or the way he’s running, he takes the coaching well, and I thought he just ran with a little more sense of urgency and just hitting the holes hard and you can see it and it paid off. He had his best game.”
The film session with Manning and prodding by coach Pat Shurmur convinced Barkley he needed to pick up the pace once the ball was in his hands. He needed to hit the hole harder and quicker, to accept a 3- or 4-yard gain rather than hesitate for a split second to determine if more yardage could be found elsewhere. Manning was the beneficiary of the accelerated pace, as he was called on to throw just 18 passes last week. Less was more for Manning, who completed 17 of them.
“I noticed it,” Manning said of Barkley’s adjustment. “I said something to him about it and honestly something that he needed to work on during the week, but there was definitely a little better sense of getting the ball quicker and hitting the hole a little bit quicker.”
Of course, Manning noticed it. Not much gets past him. The Giants are thankful for that, as well.
The Eagles are not getting any healthier. Four of their cornerbacks again were not able to practice Thursday: Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. LB Jordan Hicks and RB Darren Sproles also did not practice. … The Giants continue to be remarkably healthy. Only DL Kerry Wynn (concussion) was not able to work.