FOXBOROUGH — The final exhibition game is usually the time for first stringers to rest.
Not this time for the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
The teams with two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL need to solve their offensive problems tonight as the regular season looms.
“We have to play better,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “We have to be better in the red zone and convert on third downs, so there’s some room for improvement.”
New York has scored just two offensive touchdowns in three exhibition games and has converted only six of 33 first-down opportunities in its last two. That may be part of the reason coach Tom Coughlin plans to use his regulars for up to 15 plays.
He also needs some stability in the offensive line following injuries to center David Baas and left guard David Diehl. Kevin Boothe is expected to move from left guard to center with James Brewer taking over at left guard. A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, Brewer has played only six games for the Giants with no starts and didn’t play the left side at all this preseason.
“I’m very excited to be playing left guard,” Brewer said. “Honestly, just the chance to start is big for me and whether I’m on the left side or right side, as long as I’m on the field.”
Victor Cruz won’t be, although the wide receiver expects to be ready for the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8. He hurt his heel in the second exhibition game and took off his protective boot on Monday.
“A lot of the swelling has gone down,” he said. “Looking forward to better days coming.”
The Patriots (2-1) will face the Giants (1-2) for the ninth straight time in an exhibition finale. Tom Brady expects to play even though he’s played in only two of the Patriots’ last nine final preseason games.