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Giants' offense still a work in progress

Eli Manning #10 of the Giants and offensive

Eli Manning #10 of the Giants and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo stand on the sidelines late in a game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

There are two weeks left in which we can say the Giants have a first-year offensive system and a rookie coordinator. Assuming the system and the coordinator are back next year -- and that's not a given, although it's increasingly likely -- that gives them only a handful of practices and two games to hammer out some pressing details, fine-tune some adjustments and accomplish some big-picture goals before shrink-wrapping the playbook and putting it in storage for the offseason.

With the Giants out of playoff contention, it's allowed some of the key elements in the program to reflect a little on what has been learned this season and what still needs improvement.

"We made progress,'' offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said of the season, which began with the baby steps of installation in April and will culminate on Dec. 28 with the final regular-season game. "We've played a lot of games so far and spent a lot of time together.''

McAdoo said he hasn't spent much time analyzing his first year as a play-caller but acknowledged he has picked up a few lessons.

"You learn what you learn along the way,'' he said. "You apply. You go back to conversations that you may have had along the way.''

The biggest thing he's taken from year one?

"In tough times, you think about players, not plays,'' he said. "Maybe that's something that you can apply going forward, especially in a long season.''

Players, not plays.

"The best play may not be the best play because it doesn't get the person the ball who gives you the best chance to win the game,'' McAdoo said. "Getting the ball to the right guy at the right time is most critical.''

That sounds almost like a mea culpa for the string of fade passes with goal-to-go against the 49ers. But maybe it's not.

"There was no 'ah-ha' moment,'' McAdoo said of the lesson. "You figure that out through a couple different experiences . . . You don't fall into the trap where you think the system is everything.''

So if it's about players and not plays, what of them?

Eli Manning's numbers certainly are better this year than last. His interceptions are down dramatically. He has only 13 of them this season, and seven of those came in a three-game stretch against Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas. His completion percentage of 63.2 is below the 70 percent mark he had hoped to attain but still is the highest of his career.

"There is still definitely room for improvement on my behalf,'' Manning said. "I still make some mistakes. There are calls I wish I would have made or could have made that would have been better. Or different checks.

"There is definitely room for improvement for me and getting better with some of my footwork and my mechanics of the offense.''

Manning said he'll spend the last weeks of the season working on this offense, not worrying about whether it will be next year's offense. He wouldn't give a definitive vote in favor of or against keeping this system.

"I'm going to keep working on that and after the season, we will figure out what is going to happen,'' he said.

And then there's Odell Beckham Jr., the wunderkind of the Giants' offense. He has a slate of record-book possibilities to attend to in the last two games, but he's also starting to peek beyond his rookie campaign.

"I'm just looking to the offseason to get completely healthy, get my body right, work on whatever you need to work on,'' Beckham said. "The potential, everything is there. Just have to put it all together.''

Beckham missed all of training camp and the first four games with a hamstring injury. McAdoo said he is looking forward to working with the young player in an atmosphere in which games are not coming on a weekly basis and he can do some experimenting.

"We need to continue to work with him in expanding his role and seeing what he can handle and really going through an offseason and seeing what he does well,'' McAdoo said. "The offseason is the time where we will be able to help mold his game and see where we can go with him and his position.''

Even if all of the elements do come back, McAdoo 2.0 could be very different from the original. Lessons have been learned, skills have been instituted, philosophies have been ingrained. But the basics have been put in place during a year of learning, growth and sometimes struggle.

"Being new,'' McAdoo said, "is no longer an excuse.''

Next season awaits.

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