EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning looks out over the Giants’ defense at practice and automatically knows what play to use.
Well, that’s how it was in the team’s offense under coordinator Kevin Gilbride. The Giants won two Super Bowls with Gilbride’s schemes.
But Gilbride has retired, and while head coach Tom Coughlin always has had a strong hand in the offense -- and still will -- the alignments and plays under new coordinator Ben McAdoo are different enough that Manning has to think twice.
And if Manning, one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in the game, has some hesitation, then certainly the rest of his unit can’t be comfortable yet.
Of course, that comfort level needs to come in September, not at a June minicamp in which the Giants are taking baby steps.
"It’s definitely felt different," Manning said Tuesday. "There’s a lot of learning. The past several years ... you never had too many surprises. You weren’t positive how it was going to all turn out or what a guy might do versus this coverage, or thinking about protections and stuff. All of that was second nature.
"I’m still thinking some out there and trying to make things right. You kind of have to slowly think through it the first time you’re doing some things, but overall I feel good about where I am now.
Manning looked sharp in the first practice at minicamp, showing no signs of being troubled by the left ankle surgery he underwent in April. He connected on all sorts of passes, including a deep TD throw that hit Rueben Randle in stride.
He is surrounded by plenty of new faces on offense, and not just the guy calling the plays. In an unusual spree, New York brought in 19 veteran free agents, 10 on offense. Add in a bunch of rookies, including top draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., who sat for most of Tuesday with a sore hamstring.
All of that change makes for adjustments that need to be made as early as possible. The last thing the Giants want is to be heading into preseason games while struggling with the offense.
"I feel today we had a pretty good practice, we’re moving around fast and making some plays," Manning said. "This is really the fourth time that we’re going over this -- ‘install one’ is what we call it. So this stuff is coming out fast and calling the plays quick and getting to the line of scrimmage and making quick calls. That was smoother and hopefully the more times we do it, the better I’ll get."
Everyone needs to get better, as Victor Cruz, now the veteran of the receivers, noted while adding he was encouraged how everyone has been approaching the transition to a quicker-paced attack.
"I think guys are really picking up the offense quickly and they’re out there doing what they have to do to prove to the coaches that they can be accountable and that they know what they’re doing," Cruz said.
With Beckham and veteran Mario Manningham sidelined, Manning isn’t too familiar with his targets, aside from Cruz and Randle, of course. Regardless, the quarterback knows now is the time to make big strides, to ensure that come the opening kickoff against Detroit in September, that the Giants are on stride.
"We’re getting better, we’re getting where we need to be," he said, "but we’re still fine-tuning a few things."
NOTES: Middle linebacker Jon Beason will not require surgery on his broken right foot or on a ligament tear in the foot. Veteran Jameel McClain and fifth-round draft pick Devon Kennard split reps Tuesday at the position. Kennard looked especially active. ... Starting guard Chris Snee, who had elbow surgery after the season, did not work, calling it "a breather." Brandon Mosley stepped in.