New York Giants wide receiver Dwayne Harris said quarterback Eli Manning and the offense are working on throwing the deep ball more often.
Harris told the Giants team site that the team will be utilizing its receiving corps of him, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz to throw the ball downfield more often.
"I think we're getting better just throwing the ball down the field more," Harris said. "We're definitely trying to work on throwing the ball down the field, throwing more deep passes. And [we need to get] the run game going. That's one of the key elements in our offense. We got it going later on in the season. We've just got to continue that momentum and keep carrying it in the beginning of this season."
Manning completed 13 of 40 passes that were between 21 and 30 yards downfield for 478 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions last season, according to ESPN. He went 2 for 10 for 75 yards and one touchdowns on passes thrown between 31 and 40 yards downfield, and was 2 for 2 for 122 yards and two touchdowns on passes thrown at least 41 yards downfield.
Manning's persistence with the deep ball is nothing new. In a three-year span from 2009 to 2011, Manning threw the deep ball in 15.15 percent of passes, which ranked sixth-most in the NFL in that time period, according to Pro Football Focus. Manning threw a deep pass 248 times in 1,637 total attempts, and the five players ranked ahead of him threw no more than 628 passes in a three-year span.
Midway through the 2013 season, he averaged six throws per game that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, according to the Wall Street Journal, though finished the year averaging 3.6 passes downfield. He threw the ball downfield 58 times out of 551 pass attempts in 2013 with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Manning struggled with the deep ball in 2014. In total, he went 12-for-46 passing for 484 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions on passes longer than 20 yards, according to ESPN.
He threw the ball 21-30 yards 7.5 percent of the time and had a rating of -5.4, according to Pro Football Focus. (The NFL average for rating is 0.0.) He threw passes between 31-40 yards 2.8 percent of the time and had a rating of -5.1, and threw 1.9 percent of his passes for 40+ yards with a rating of 1.6.
Last season, he went 17 for 52 for 675 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions on passes longer than 20 yards.
Beckham caught seven of his 96 receptions on passes thrown more than 20 yards, while former Giants WR Rueben Randle had six catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns on passes thrown at least 21 yards. Harris, who recorded 36 catches last season, had just two receptions that traveled at least 21 yards in the air.
I believe the Giants' passing offense could be a juggernaut in 2016 with Manning coming off one of his strongest seasons and Beckham finally settling into his position as the team's superstar. The addition of Shepard and the expected return of Cruz will put defenses at a disadvantage. Harris will be involved along with Geremy Davis, and don't forget the improved tight end unit.
What could end up happening is the short passing game with Shane Vereen and other running backs taking advantage of what defenses give them underneath while attempting to cover all of the wideouts who are stretching the field. Either way, the Giants' offense could be a 30-point-per-game enterprise, which would take much-needed pressure off of the defense this season. The temptation will be greater than ever to pass the ball 60 percent of the time again this year, but what they really need is more balance. Long passes are necessary and the Giants need to establish themselves there, but come the end of games, they will need to play keepaway with the run to secure leads and finish out ballgames.