|Bill Kostroun / Associated Press|
|To get past a miserable 2010, Eli Manning has to work on avoiding mistakes at crucial times.|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a season in which he threw 25 interceptions and lost five fumbles, the last thing Giants quarterback Eli Manning needed to worry about was the ball exchange from his center. That's exactly what he's been working on the first few days from training camp.
"Having Shaun O'Hara here my first seven years, that's the last thing on your mind," Manning said. "Now, I've got to make sure I get the snap. You work before practice, after practice, working on our cadence stuff. He's learning a new offense so he has a lot of things going on too. The good thing is we haven't had one bobbled snap so far."
Manning's hardly comfortable. He just lost tight end Kevin Boss to Oakland in free agency and wide receiver Steve Smith, who had micro-fracture surgery on his knee, is still on the free-agent market. Working in new talent with an evolving offensive scheme compounds the workload.
For Manning, though, the concern is more introspective. Bouncing back from a season in which he turned the ball over 30 times is front and, well, center. The spike in miscues is being viewed by the team as an aberration, a consistent fluctuating of composure that was caused by his receivers being in and out of the lineup and his offensive line being in flux.
The same issues are greeting Manning now.
"He started to force things too much," general manager Jerry Reese said. "Sacks are a good play sometimes instead of turning the ball over or getting the ball knocked out. He forced it a little bit but he's one of those guys who can self correct and say, 'I got to eat that ball.' I expect him to do that."
Manning was sacked just 16 times last season -- 14 fewer than in 2009 and the second fewest times only behind his rookie season (13) when he played just nine games. That's in part because he threw the ball up for grabs sometimes when he should have hit the deck and taken a sack and accepted that a punt isn't always a bad thing, especially in comparison to a turnover.
"It's about putting the team in situations to hit big plays and avoid the bad plays, the bad decisions," Manning said. "When things go wrong, hit the check down, throw it away, avoid the bad play. Last year, that was part of the problem. We did a lot of great things, but our bad plays were very bad.
"It wasn't just an incompletion, it was an interception or a fumble or a turnover or something. We eliminate those things and we have the talent to make a lot of plays and score points. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot."
Part of that will come by the re-establishment of a consistent running game. While there is faith through the organization that Manning can win by throwing frequently, the goal is like that of any other team: Establish a lead, then run the tap out the clock. The Giants have the backs to do that in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. They've proven they can.
Last season, the inability to regularly run the ball -- sometimes because defenses dared the Giants to win via Manning's arm -- put the quarterback in position to try and force the issue. Eli is not his brother Peyton in that regard. The Giants aren't the Colts, either. They're a run-first, play-action, big-play offense.
"He's in the prime of his career," Reese said. "I think he's an ascending player in his prime. He's not a 25-interception kind of guy. He's smarter than that. I do expect him to lead this team to something special."
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.