By Ernie Palladino
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Imagine what the immediate future might have looked like had Ryan Fitzpatrick or Eli Manning gone down like Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did the day before. Dallas won't be seeing him for a projected six to 10 weeks as he heals from the back vertebrae the Seahawks broke in their 27-17 win Saturday.
Judging by the happenings at MetLife Stadium during this offensively dreary affair, either team would be looking at a far worse future than Dallas, who at least has a fourth-round phenom in Dak Prescott burning up camp.
Imagine Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib having to lead their respective squads into the season after the underwhelming camps each has engineered. Not a pretty thought.
Luckily, neither of our local squads have to worry about that. Fitzpatrick, whose second-quarter touchdown throw to Eric Decker produced the only score of the first half, hardly looked like a quarterback who was ready to fly into the season. Of course, playing without Brandon Marshall, a healthy scratch, was a handicap that Fitzpatrick won't have to deal with in the regular season. That automatically should change the offensive hue.
But still, 90 yards from the starting offense and a touchdown set up only because Odell Beckham Jr. short-armed a Manning pass into a Darrelle Revis interception was hardly cause for celebration. Fitzpatrick missed some open receivers and never did get to feeling comfortable in that still-developing pocket.
Manning was even worse. Though he did add a sentimental touch to the proceedings when he found Victor Cruz for a four-yard catch in the third quarter, Cruz's first since blowing his patellar tendon apart in 2014, it was obvious his timing was way off. It didn't help that new coach Ben McAdoo spent much of the starters' time trying to establish a ground game so predictable that the Jets' defense devoured it as they would a steak after a three-day fast.
The Giants, in fact, failed to cross into Jets territory until 2:36 left in the third quarter by way of a facemask penalty. And Manning wasn't behind the center when that happened.
All this, of course, is consistent with the nature of preseason. Continuity, advancement of various units and cohesion among the new faces were more important to either team than whatever little game-planning produced the Giants' 21-20 win.
Unfortunately, little of that happened on either offense. Certainly the starters failed to achieve that. And unless one believes the Giants found a new receiving star in longshot Tavarres King, whose two-touchdown catches off Nassib produced the winning points, or that Christian Hackenberg's 10-yard touchdown toss to Robby Anderson portend great things for the fast-developing rookie receiver or fourth-string quarterback, then one certainly yearned for something more from both offenses.
McAdoo and Jets coach Todd Bowles have two weeks to come up with a fix for their offensive inadequacies. Game-planning will help, along with some tight, intense coaching before next Saturday's final cut to 53.
But here's the thing: On an evening when these offenses had a chance to send a preliminary statement to their division neighbors, it would have benefited both teams to come out with a far better showing from the starters.
Instead, they came out of the game with the single, basic achievement of keeping Fitzpatrick and Manning intact.
It's not much, but it's something.
Not every team in the league can claim that.
Just ask the Cowboys.
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