Career-year has Giants' Manning among elite QBs

By Tom Canavan

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 10 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Hakeem Nicks (38 catches) and Mario Manningham (27) are producing as expected but Manning has found a way to mix in second-year wide out Victor Cruz (34) and second-year tight end Jake Ballard (23) to fill the holes along with running back Ahmad Bradshaw (24).

Nicks said Manning's meetings are never one-sided.

"It's him leading it, but it's open for discussion," said Nicks, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury. "I'll say: 'E I think I can do this on this certain play and he'll go 'OK', I think you could, too,' and we'll do that," Nicks said.

Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, a Giant from 2003-06, remembers Manning's meetings.

"His film work and just knowing and diagnosing these defenses quickly and being able to know where to throw the ball, that's what always made him successful," Shiancoe said. "He has the physical attributes, but that work off the field is very important. And it's showing with Eli. He's always been a guy in the film room extra. First one in, last one out."

San Francisco cornerback Carlos Rogers played against Manning for six seasons with the Redskins, so he has seen most of his progression.

"It's a combination of him having total control of the offense and the receivers knowing what they're doing," Rogers said. "When those guys were younger I think it was a struggle, knowing where to go and running their routes at the right depth, things like that. ... They pretty much know what they are doing now."

Manning has had a big part in the development of the young receivers.

"The fact he comes up to me and tells me where he wants to go with the ball at times, and what he is looking at on defense, and where he thinks I will be open, it's just great," said Cruz, who leads the receivers with four touchdowns. "To have a guy like that in your ear, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, it's great."

Cruz also knows he has been successful because nothing seems to bother Manning. In the opening game of the year, Cruz dropped an easy third-down pass on the opening drive. After the play, Manning walked up to him and told him he would get his chances again.

"That is one of his top traits, that whether it's good or bad, he's the same guy," offensive lineman Kevin Boothe said. "You don't get him too riled up and you don't get him down. It's an even playing field with him. I think it's almost like a calming influence when you come into the huddle regardless of what happens."

Gilbride has seen a steady growth in Manning's development with the biggest change being the drastic reduction in interceptions. He attributes it to Manning being a little more careful.

Manning also has reached the point in his career where Gilbride can use things not in the game plan and know his quarterback can make them work.

"Now if it's a first-year, second-year guy, I don't know that you can ask him to do that, but he can do it," Gilbride said. "He's like an extension of our coaching staff out there, so he does a good job. I think it's a combination of the guys around him are playing well enough that you can see his play at such a high level and I think it's continued development with (Eli)."

AP Sports Writers John Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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