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Eli Manning likes what he's seeing from his former team, albeit it all still a work in progress. It's safe to say the New York Giants earned the highest free agency grade of any team in the NFC East, but that can only be viewed as the beginning of what needs to be excelled at if they're to contend for the division crown and potentially more in 2021. The signing of wideouts Kenny Golladay and John Ross, along with tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Adoree' Jackson have Manning's full attention, and co-owner John Mara also made it known he's growing "impatient" with losing seasons (a not-so-veiled nudge to general manager Dave Gettleman). 

Additionally underscoring the recent round of free agency success is Mara's lack of urgency on negotiating a long-term deal with former second overall pick Saquon Barkley -- adding in a pressure-packed year to come for former sixth overall pick Daniel Jones -- and this coming season (and the remainder of this offseason) will be something to watch in New York. But, as it stands, Manning is optimistic about where it will all land. 

"It's been great," Manning told Sports Illustrated. "They're obviously committed to turning this around. They feel great about a lot of positions where they are and I think Coach [Joe] Judge has done a great job. The fact that they are a young team, and they've drafted well, have all these guys that are growing within this program and under his leadership, I think they're heading in the right direction.

"In the NFL, sometimes all it takes is a few players to really go from kind of that middle-of-the-pack to a playoff-caliber team."

And as for Jones, Manning continues to hammer home his belief in his former backup turned successor. 

"It's hard when you have a quarterback in his second year, second offensive coordinator, a lot of changes," Manning said. "The fact that he'll be going into the same offense for two consecutive years will help him, help him grow as a player, be more comfortable in the offense. I know he works extremely hard. I know he's committed and dedicated to doing whatever possible. 

"I know it's important for him to have success and to be a leader and to get back to winning football games for the Giants. Having those qualities is the start that you need to eventually have success in the NFL. I think he has those things. He of course has the talent, the ability to make the plays. 

"It's just combining all those together, plus getting the guys around him that can help him, and I think that's what the Giants are doing."

Manning believes Golladay, who reminds him a lot of former teammate Plaxico Burress, is a huge leap in that direction.

"They're both tall, rangy receivers," said Manning of Golladay. "Maybe not the fastest person on the team, but when you're 6-foot-5 and you're 225 pounds -- or whatever he might be -- you don't have to be the fastest. You don't have to be open to be open, if that makes sense. Quarterbacks can throw you open, they can put it in spots where only you can make a play on it. 

"Separation is not needed necessarily to be an open receiver. I think having that type of receiver, sometimes it draws double coverage. It gets a safety to help on that side. It can open up for other receivers. 

"... I think they have some players around that when you sign a guy like Golladay, it will open up obviously for him to make plays, but open up for some of these other guys to have success as well."

Gettleman and Mara certainly hope so, as they work to turn things around after having made the NFL playoffs only once since winning the Super Bowl under Manning in 2011 -- dismissed from Wild Card Weekend in 2016 and having suffered four consecutive losing seasons since. If ever there were a time to right the ship, it's right now, additionally considering the impact this season will have on the future of cornerstone players like Jones and Barkley. 

For his part, though, the two-time Super Bowl winner believes the derailed train is back on the tracks for 2021.