- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Eli Manning is well aware of the numbers so far this preseason.
He's completed 49.1 percent of his passes for no touchdowns and had two interceptions in the major tuneup of the preseason against the New York Jets on Monday night.
But the New York Giants quarterback reminds everyone that it's the preseason and that this is what the exhibition season is for -- to work out the kinks.
"No, I don't think anything is wrong," Manning said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "We have done some really good things. I thought we moved the ball very well the other night. We just didn't finish drives and we had a couple of mistakes that kept us from getting into the end zone and kept us from continuing drives."
"Again, no one is ever going to remember what your preseason numbers are," Manning added. "It is about learning, seeing things, getting used to taking a hit, making adjustments. Ultimately that's why it is preseason, just preparation for the regular season."
The concern, though, is that Manning has not had his normal offseason of preparation leading up to now. Manning did not have a minicamp or OTAs to work with his receivers and coaches due to the lockout. This preseason is not your average preseason.
Giant coach Tom Coughlin did not say whether he will play his starters on Thursday against the Patriots on two days' rest.
Manning says the offense is nearly ready for the regular season. He believes that with another week and a half, he will have time to clean up the offense's inability to score touchdowns in the preseason.
Building a comfort level with a new slot receiver and tight end after enjoying terrific chemistry with Smith and Boss for years can't be developed in one training camp.
So the result can be one of the two interceptions Manning threw during the 17-3 loss to the Jets. Manning was under pressure from a blitzing linebacker David Harris when he threw a ball too high for wide receiver Victor Cruz while backpedaling and into the hands of Jets safety Jim Leonhard.
Coughlin said a receiver and tight end did not make a sight adjustment to the blitz. Those are things that Manning probably never had to worry about with Smith and Boss, who departed in free agency for the Eagles and Raiders, respectively.
"What you lose is just experience," Manning said of not having two of his most trusted targets. "What you kind of lose is some brain power at receiver. Steve Smith is a four-year guy, a starter, played in a lot of games, seen every defense, seen every look, learned by reps how to get open and Kevin Boss, same thing, played a lot of football games, seen a lot of looks, knew what he was doing."
"Just not having to think much out there, just reacting because in practice, they thought about every situation that might happen," Manning continued. "So that is what we are trying to build on. It might not always be perfect and smooth and you got to go with these guys. That is part of being a young football player and the great game of football. You have new guys come in and you got to let them grow up and do good things. They are also going to make mistakes and you have to live and die with that."
Coughlin said he would like to see the offense throw over the middle more often.
"This is a preseason where I can't think of us getting to the middle of the field on a play-action or anything where we had the decision after recognizing two deep or three deep and making the proper adjustment," Coughlin said. "I can't recall this preseason having that opportunity. We missed one the other night but quite frankly, the receiver was covered so it would have been a great throw just to get the ball in there. That's the only one I can think of for a whole preseason so when you talk about attacking the middle of the field, we really haven't had that type of opportunity."
Manning said that was the first he had heard of that but understands that it is all a process of finding a new guy to work the middle the way Smith did. Domenik Hixon and Cruz are two candidates to do the job. Mario Manningham also has experience there as well.
"I don't know, this is new to me," Manning said when told Coughlin wanted to see the team work the middle more. "Just depends on plays being called and always depends on the defense that teams are running.
"The other day I hit Hakeem (Nicks) on an in-breaking route for about 15 yards and a few games ago I hit Mario on an in-breaking route against Chicago on a third-and-long. We have hit some things. That is just probably getting that slot receiver into the mix a little more."
There are a few question marks surrounding the Giants offense entering the regular season. It remains to be seen whether Manning can cut down on the interceptions with a new tight end and a new slot receiver.
But Manning isn't concerned. He saw a running game that appears to be clicking at the moment and an offense that has been able to move the ball but hasn't been able to finish by scoring touchdowns.
"We're ready and I've never put too much on preseason," Manning said. "There is still work to do. Fortunately we still have some time. We have some preparation and some film study that we can do and we will get ready for Washington and know specifically how they play things and what they do and get a little better understanding of what our exact routes will be, how crisp they will be, play a little faster, a little heads up on what we will get and you adjust and react and follow the rules. We got to eliminate some mistakes but we have done some good things."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.
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