2005-10-07 / Sports

NY Giants Playmakers Eli and Plaxico: Perfect Together

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

The New York Giants’ Plaxico Burress, left, and Eli Manning talk on the field during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Giants Stadium (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).The New York Giants’ Plaxico Burress, left, and Eli Manning talk on the field during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Giants Stadium (AP Photo/Gregory Bull). EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The best way for a young quarterback to develop is to get him a big time receiver. And with the off season signing of Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants did just that for their field general Eli Manning.

Much like the way Manning’s older brother Peyton uses Marvin Harrison, Burress has become a favorite target for the Giant quarterback and it made his progress go a lot smoother.

“I think I have a sense of where [Burress] is going to be and what he’s doing,” Manning said after the Giants 44-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. When working on routes – we got a new route in that week – we’ll get in a new period where we are up and just throw it up one or two times. And just little things like that, you don’t have to work a whole lot.”

Manning was 19 for 35 for 296 yards with four touchdown passes last Sunday and Burress, who had 204 receiving yards on 10 catches, caught two of those scores. It was the third best day ever by a Giants’ receiver and best since Amani Toomer also caught 10 catches for 204 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on December 22, 2002.

About his day, Burress modestly said, “I just want to go out and play well enough to have an impact to help my team win. Just go out and try to make the plays that I’m supposed to make and make the plays that I’m not supposed to make and be effective in the running game.”

What the Giants are seeing is an acceleration of two talents who were not expected to be this good this early. Manning only has 10 NFL starts under his belt and many football experts labeled Burress lazy during his five seasons in Pittsburgh. He only had over 1,000 yards twice in his career and some believed he lacked the focus to be an elite wide receiver in the league.

In fact, the Giants saw that lack of focus last week, when Burress was benched for two series in Big Blue’s loss to San Diego for being late for one of Tom Coughlin’s meetings.

The benching seemed to have an effect on the receiver.

“He was here early [to the meetings this week].” Michael Strahan said. “I said that was the earliest I had ever seen him here. It was like 8 o’clock and he didn’t have to be here until 8:25.”

Tiki Barber added, “Well I think he knows that it is important for this team; for everyone to have accountability every day of the week, not just on Sunday. It is easy to just go out and play the game that is what’s fun about what we do, but it is Monday through Saturday that they really pay us for.”

The focused Burress has helped Manning in his development. Because the receiver often creates mismatches for a cornerback, due to his 6’5” frame and large wingspan, the quarterback is able to have an open receiver most of the time. Manning is also able to throw a higher ball, which would be very difficult for the opposition to intercept.

“I thought the first touchdown catch by Plaxico over the middle was outstanding,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “I mean even at his height he went way up in the air and caught the top of the ball and made an outstanding play. Eli put it where nobody else could get it and Plaxico went up and got it.”

Manning has also improved on his footwork over the past two weeks, which has allowed him more mobility in the pocket and thus, more time to throw to the open receiver.

“Well, it’s something I try to keep up with to make sure I am moving and finding lanes to throw it,” Manning said. “I thought last week I did a good job of it, just moving around holding the ball at times. This week I didn’t have to move a whole lot, I thought I got the ball out quick at times when there was pressure and just throwing the ball on time and knowing where the receivers were going to be at.”

All this development has the Giants averaging a shade over 30 points a game, which is best in the NFL and good enough to have Big Blue 3-1 going into the bye week. But don’t expect Manning and company to rest on their laurels.

“This week we’ll have two practices,” the quarterback said. “We still have things that we have to work on. We can’t just blow this week off. We have to go and get better this week and stay in rhythm especially as an offense and stay where we are still doing good things where when we come back in two weeks, we are still playing well.”

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