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Eli Manning on new offense: 'You can't have doubts'

Eli Manning of the Giants takes the field

Eli Manning of the Giants takes the field with his teammates for a preseason game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

For most of the last decade, it was the other way around. It was the quarterback whom the players looked to, counted on and reckoned for.

Even the letters seemed to fit the sentiment. You can't spell "believe'' without "Eli,'' the Giants would often say.

But this year, Eli Manning no longer is the subject of that sometimes blind faith. He's had to become the purveyor of it. Manning and the Giants are putting their reputations, their legacies and, more immediately, the fate of their 2014 season on the line, betting that this West Coast experiment will work. And they are doing it without having seen much of anything from it through five preseason games in which the starters played 19 series. Three of them ended in touchdowns. Ten of them were three-and-outs or turnovers.

The apostle from Louisiana remains devoted.

"I think you have to have the trust before it works,'' Manning said of the unproven offense designed by first-time coordinator Ben McAdoo. "You can't have doubts.''

That's a hard thing to mandate after last season, in which Manning threw 27 interceptions and the Giants finished with their first losing record since his rookie season. It's difficult to maintain faith when the team has not made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. It's almost impossible to believe that this will be different when the co-owner who labeled the offense "broken'' at the end of the miserable 2013 season was the same person who, four months earlier, said the Giants were the most talented team he'd seen in years.

Yet . . . there's the salvation of two recent Super Bowls, neither of them expected until late in the season. Manning has worked miracles.

But this year more than any other in recent Giants history, seeing will be believing.

"There's definitely a level of excitement to be able to put four quarters under our belt and be able to go out there and put our best foot forward for an entire game and really see what happens,'' receiver Victor Cruz said. "When that happens and we start to feel that continuity and feel what it feels like to be in this offense for a full four quarters . . . we'll get a better feel for it and see how it goes from week in to week out, and we'll take it from there. It's too early to tell, but once we get a full game under our belts and see what happens, then we can take it from there.''

It's not just the offensive scheme that has changed. During the offseason, the Giants underwent the most significant personnel overhaul since the arrival of coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese.

Gone are the stalwart leaders of the past, including Chris Snee and David Diehl on the offensive line (both of whom retired), Justin Tuck and Kevin Boothe (who signed with the Raiders as free agents) and Linval Joseph (who signed with the Vikings).

The Giants brought in a fresh crop of leaders -- there was an obvious emphasis on character in this year's draft class, as if the front office not only was picking future players but future captains -- and rebuilt their offensive line.

They also added two strong pieces to their secondary in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III, two cornerbacks who played in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in February. The Giants' defensive success in 2013 was overshadowed by the bumbling offense, but they did finish the season ranked eighth in the NFL. And with a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul and the additions to the secondary, they should be even better.

But even the defenders are curious about what the Giants' offense will bring.

"It'll be interesting to see how we feed off each other when the real games are played,'' defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said.

Maybe it will work out. The last time the Giants underwent a significant systematic change was in 2007, when defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo joined the staff. The team experienced some horrendous growing pains early that season, but by the end, they were raising the Lombardi Trophy.

Can they do that again?

"I certainly hope so,'' Coughlin said. "That's what we are here for. We'll see once the season starts.''

All of us will.

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