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Eli Manning hasn't been intercepted yet in training camp

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 drops

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 drops back to pass during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. Credit: Brad Penner

The streak lives, but Eli Manning won't be happy.

He threw a deep pass intended for Victor Cruz Thursday that looked to be intercepted in jump-ball style by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- it would have been Manning's first turnover in training camp. Manning clearly thought the pass was picked off because he followed it up with his trademark hand clap of frustration. But those close to the action said the ball came loose -- thanks, no doubt, to the efforts of Cruz -- and was just an incompletion.

All of which brings Manning's interception total through training camp to a whopping zero.

That's right, the Giants quarterback has yet to be picked off through six practices. And while he is usually loath to admit that he notices anything about his own statistical performances, this one -- or the absence of one -- has caught his eye.

"Yeah," he said when asked before Thursday's workout if he keeps track of his practice picks. "You remember those in practice. They're never fun to watch on film. I had one [Wednesday] that was close, a bad decision, so I put that in the same category. It was tipped up near the red zone."

Add this almost-interception to that column.

A clearly miffed Manning responded by completing all eight of his passes in the next drill, a seven-on-seven passing exercise. His strong play in the first week of camp has not gone unnoticed and has the Giants projecting big things from him, and themselves.

"He's going to end up playing his best football here from this point forward, there's no doubt in my mind," Tom Coughlin said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "To have him and to have him start camp like he is and all the players around him realize they have to play a little bit higher level, that's a good thing."

Players at the age of 34 usually aren't poised for breakout seasons. This could be Manning's. "I base it on his offseason, his strength, the way he threw the ball in the spring, his continuing knowledge of the offense," Coughlin said.

"And," he added, "the fact that, God willing, we'll have some production around him."

Manning saw a dramatic dip in interceptions in 2014. After a career-high 27 in 2013, he was down to just 14 last year.

Last year at this time Manning was throwing a lot of training camp picks as he tried to get a grasp on the new offense. That's the biggest difference, he said, leading to this summer's interception drought.

"Having a better plan, a better understanding of where to go with the ball," he said. "Not getting stuck in some bad situations where there are free blitzers or pressures and indecisiveness. I think that's part of it, a little better understanding, play a little smarter, understand the importance of protecting the football. I think all of those things play a factor in that."

He's also changed up his training routine, which has led to a more decisive arm. Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan on Wednesday was the latest to note the improved strength and zip behind Manning's passes. At an age when most athletes start to see decreases in their physical abilities, Manning seems to be improving his.

"Always looking for a way to get better, that's the goal," he said of altering his program, which has included baseball throwing techniques and training. "You can't get stuck in your ways. That's everybody . . . I learned more about how to stay stronger, how to get your arm stronger, how to maintain your body and eat better. Everything, especially as you get older, you start listening to your body a little bit more, understanding what works and try to eliminate the soreness. Taking care of your body a little bit more. It's a whole process."

Manning said he notices a difference too, even from last year when he was a young 33 years old. "Last year I felt good," he said. "I think I feel better than I did at this time last year so I'm excited. Hopefully I can keep it that way."

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