The original plan called for Eli Manning to play two series to get him more action than last week’s three-and-out against the Jets. But by the time Manning got the Giants into the end zone after a 10-play, 79-yard drive to open Friday night’s game against the Bears, Pat Shurmur had seen enough from his starting quarterback.
“We had enough plays and we moved the ball, so I think [Shurmur] was good with that,” Manning said after the Giants’ 32-13 preseason win at MetLife Stadium.
It was a crisp, efficient night for Manning, who completed all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown on an 8-yard pass to Bennie Fowler III. Shurmur then went with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones for the rest of the first half, trying to get the No. 6 overall pick up to speed in what could be his most extensive work in the preseason.
With next Thursday’s third preseason game against the Bengals likely serving as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Manning can figure on playing the entire first half as he readies for the Giants’ opener against the Cowboys in Dallas on Sept. 8.
He was encouraged by his limited work against the Bears, albeit against a defense that rested its starters.
“I had heard the Bears had a scrimmage earlier in the week, so I knew they might not play their starters,” Manning said.
Even so, he thought the offense played well.
“Had some play-action, had some dropbacks, had some bootlegs, a lot of guys getting catches and running the football well,” Manning said. “I think we have receivers that do a good job. We can move them around, put them in different spots. They do a good job catching the ball, running after the catch. And [the running backs] do a good job in the run game and [set up] the play-action.”
Manning started things with a short pass over the middle to Cody Latimer that went for 20 yards. He hit tight end Rhett Ellison on a 9-yard throw to get to the Bears’ 14-yard line. A pass in the left flat for slot receiver Golden Tate got it to the 8 before Manning hit Fowler over the middle for the touchdown.
Shurmur was pleased.
“That’s what you evaluate quarterbacks on,” he said. “Move the team and get us in the end zone.”
Jones wound up 11-for-14 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown, but he also fumbled twice, including once on a mishandled snap as the Giants were driving deep in Bears territory.
“There are going to be things that don’t go great, but when they happen, you have to find a way to make it work,” Jones said. “Glad we were able to do that.”
He rallied from the missteps to put together two scoring drives before the end of the half, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver T.J. Jones.
It was a good night for the Giants, and even though the game doesn’t count, Manning believes there was value in the outcome.
“It helps just to play well, to move the ball,” he said. “A lot of receivers are making plays down the field, ‘go’ routes and getting open, so I think it makes the competition good at practice. It makes guys hungry to want to get in to make plays. You see the competitiveness.”
It’s almost show time for Manning, who got the backing earlier this week from team president John Mara. The Giants’ boss would love to see Manning play the entire season, which means it would be a playoff year.
Manning feels ready.
“I feel good,” he said. “Same as I’ve felt or better than I’ve felt in some years. Feel strong. No aches and feel really good.”
Soon enough, he’ll know if feeling good will be good enough.