The book on Eli Manning’s preseason has been closed.
Pat Shurmur said on Sunday that Manning will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Patriots and that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones will make his first career start in that contest at Gillette Stadium. That decision is hardly a surprise; many teams rest their starters for the fourth preseason game. But it does mean that Manning will head into the regular season for the Giants as the starting quarterback having played just three live-action possessions this summer.
While the push to get Jones ready for his rookie season has been front-and-center, has that left enough work for Manning to get ready for his 16th?
Shurmur said yes.
“He’s done a lot of really good stuff out here,” Shurmur said of the practices. “He’s much more comfortable with what we want to do on offense this year than last year. I feel like as he gets the work he needs in practice. The game work he’s gotten will help him be ready for the Cowboys.”
The practice reps may actually be more realistic to what games will be like in terms of personnel anyway. While Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard have not suited up for any of the preseason contests and Evan Engram has played just a handful of snaps in the most recent contest, that core of skill players on the offense has been working together regularly during the in-house days.
Manning is likely to continue to get that work this week, too. While Shurmur said he is transitioning from a training camp focus to a dry run for a game week in the coming days, Manning should continue to take the majority of first-team reps. He took all of them on Sunday, just as he has throughout camp.
Manning played the opening series in each of the first three preseason games for the Giants, and that was it. He threw just 13 passes, completing 9 for 86 yards. Those are by far the fewest preseason passing plays he has ever had in his career. Last year he played in just two preseason games but threw 30 passes. The dearth of live play comes prior to what is the most vital start to a regular season in Manning’s career, with Jones waiting in the wings to replace him should Manning falter early.
Those three Manning series have ended in a three-and-out, a touchdown, and a field goal.
Shurmur did not say whether other starters, such as the offensive linemen, will play on Thursday. Jones has typically spent some time with that group on the field during his snaps in games this summer.
Besides allowing the Giants to get one final look at Jones in action before they put him firmly on the bench until such time as he might be needed in the regular season, the decision not to play Manning also allows for more playing time at the bottom of the quarterback depth chart. Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta should both see their longest playing stints of the preseason and have one last chance to state their cases for making the team. Roster cutdowns are on Saturday.
Shurmur kept three quarterbacks last season, but said the rest of the roster will determine how many he keeps this season.
“I’ve said it all along, I’d keep four,” he said. “I’d keep five if the roster would allow for it, because I think quarterback development in our league is primary. You can only develop by playing and practicing. I’m fond of having lots of quarterbacks around. That’s just my feeling. But we’ll just have to see how it plays out when we get to the final 53.”
Of course, he can only actually use one at a time in games.
Shurmur has said that Manning will be that one for the opening of the regular season on Sept. 8.
Ready . . . or not.