Early on in his career, Eli Manning struggled to establish himself as a leader of the New York Giants. When you take over as the quarterback of a team that has veterans on offense like Tiki Barber, Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey and Amani Toomer, it’s easy to feel like a little fish in a big pond. That’s why Manning is clearly enjoying life more now that people like the aforementioned players are no longer around.
“I think early on we probably had receivers who in practice, you’d try to force them to get them balls so they don’t get down or you keep them happy, and I think you create bad habits doing that,” Manning said according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “As I got older and we got younger, new guys in, it evolved to doing it the correct way, going through the reads, saying you’ve got to earn the right to get open.”
Some would argue that Victor Cruz has become Manning’s favorite target, but he says that has less to do with their personal relationship and more to do with Cruz’s ability to get open.
“As a quarterback you always want to trust your guys and I tell them that I don’t have favorites, I’m not going to force it to one guy,” he said. “I’ve got a read and a progression. If you want to know what my progression is, I’ll be happy to tell you. And I’m going to stick to that. If you’re my first read, it’s your job to get open. If you’re not, then I’m going on to the next guy.”
One of the things that makes guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees so effective is that their favorite receivers are the ones who are open. Manning has put himself near that class with his ability to succeed with a variety of receivers, many of whom are backups and no-namers. Most of the distractions have either retired or gone to other teams, and that has helped Manning’s growth tremendously.
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