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Eli Manning needs to play catch up with Victor Cruz as season opener nears

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AP Photo/Matt Rourke

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will likely play a series or two in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

And he'll do so without Victor Cruz yet again. With Cruz's status for Week 1 uncertain at best, Manning admits that he and his former top receiver have some catching up to do with the Sept. 13 season opener closing in.

"Hopefully he can get back healthy where he can get back practicing," Manning said on Tuesday. "We've had limited practice reps with him. I thought he looked good and looked sharp before the calf injury.

"Hopefully he can come back and be back to his normal self. There's still some work to do with Victor. Again, getting familiar with the offense, the timing of certain routes. It'll be a work in progress, but that's OK. We've got a long season."

Cruz said on Monday that he's hopeful that he can return to practice the week before the season opener at Dallas. However, the receiver has yet to be cleared to even jog as he nurses a calf injury in his left leg.

Considering that he is returning from major surgery on his right leg, Cruz and the Giants are obviously going to be as cautious as possible.

Meanwhile, the Giants offense hasn't been as sharp or explosive as advertised. Granted it is the preseason, but Manning has yet to throw for a touchdown.

He completed 12-of-16 passes for 91 yards against the Jets last weekend but threw a pick-six to Antonio Cromartie and was sacked twice. Entering Thursday's preseason finale, Manning is 20-of-38 for 159 yards, one interception and no touchdowns.

"I think we obviously have to get all our guys out there," Manning said of getting the offense to click. "We've had guys limited and I think we've gotten better the last few weeks, kind of having all our guys practicing and finding that timing.

"We've been close on some stuff down the field and some big plays," he continued. "We just can't be close anymore. We've got to start hitting on it."

Head coach Tom Coughlin and Manning both believe the Giants can develop the consistency in practice the offense needs before the Dallas opener. But they need their key starters available to practice, especially Cruz.

"Having all your guys out there (helps) and it will get better once you start game planning and getting real specific," Manning said. "Work on who's running certain routes. I think you should continue to get better and grow. Hopefully Week 1, we're better."