Eli Manning: Despite sluggish offense, we're making progress

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Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is tackled by Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Indianapolis.(Credit: AP / Darron Cummings)

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Eli Manning knows you are freaking out. He knows you are terrified that the starting offense has looked awful, with rare exceptions, for most of their three preseason games.

He knows that the regular season begins in three weeks and that the Giants have shown no indication that they are any further along in mastering the new offensive system than they were on the day training camp began.

He knows that even Tom Coughlin on Sunday expressed concern -- which can be easily construed as doubt -- that the offense will not be fully functioning and able to turn it on for the Sept. 8 opener in Detroit.

His reaction to all of that?

Everybody chill.

The quarterback didn't use those exact words Monday, but it's clear that whatever hand-wringing and worrying is going on elsewhere, it's not taking place inside his helmet.

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He's not so obtuse as to think that everything is great and the Giants are regular season-ready, but from his vantage point, every day the team is making steady progress.

"We're doing good things in practice,'' Manning said. "There are still mistakes but . . . the things we are doing well, we have to make sure those carry over to the game.''

That's been the problem. Aside from a 73-yard touchdown run by Rashad Jennings in the Steelers game and a drive against the Bills' second-team defense in the Hall of Fame Game, there has been no carry-over from the practice field to the stadium.

"I don't think we've ever been a great preseason team, as far as I remember,'' said Manning, who seems to go through these summertime stresses every year. "I know how things are going in practice and what we're capable of doing . . . I've seen progress over these weeks in practice. Some of these concepts we're getting better at, getting a better feel for things, better timing for everything. We'll just continue working on those.''

Manning even gave a vote of confidence to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, saying: "It's not the system, it's just the execution.''

As if the three touchdown drives by the second- and third-stringers against the Colts on Saturday to win the game showed anything other than that.

"That first group, we have to get better,'' Manning said. "We have to perform better and start doing our job.''

Not everyone was as chipper and matter-of-fact as Manning. Justin Pugh and Geoff Schwartz, offensive linemen being counted on the most to help the offense rebound from last year, moped about their individual play and performance as a unit Saturday.

"It was disappointing to see the way we played after all these weeks of our work in camp,'' Schwartz said. "We have to play well against the Jets [on Friday]. We have to show something for all the work we put into camp . . . We should be getting to the point now where we see some progress, so it's kind of disappointing.''

Said Pugh, "We had been getting better at it. Unfortunately, we took a step backward.''

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The Giants have two more preseason games, but ideally the starters should rest in the finale against the Patriots. Coughlin already has warned that if the Giants don't improve against the Jets, he is not afraid to trot out his veterans for that fifth preseason game.

Manning said the Giants will spend a little more time game-planning this week than they have thus far.

"Hopefully, that will help some,'' he said. "It's just a matter of winning our individual battles and playing smart football.''

See? Simple. Eli's got this. You can relax now.

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