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Backup quarterback race could be three-man battle

It may not be the most glamorous quarterback battle in the National Football League, but the competition between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson should at the very least be on the radar of every New York Giants fan.

Yes, starter Eli Manning is the reigning active Iron Man with 211 consecutive starts, but even the best of the best eventually miss time. And if that sad day comes for Big Blue backers, will any of Manning’s understudies be ready to be called into action?

Monday night’s 10-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns doesn’t provide any Giants fan with much hope. Smith looked like the same guy who used to don the green and white for the New York Jets. While his overall stat line wasn’t terrible (11-of-17 for 79 yards), it was undercut by the customary drive-killing bad decision that plagued him as a Jet. Smith threw an ill-advised fourth-quarter interception near the goaline to cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun on third-and-goal at the four-yard line. Boddy-Calhoun, by the way, is the same guy responsible for the ankle injury to Odell Beckham Jr., so he was around two of the biggest and most infamous plays for Big Blue, last night.

But back to Smith.

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo likes to call it “protecting The Duke,” as in the name stitched on each football, aptly named after former Giants owner, the late Wellington “Duke” Mara. So, the football should have extra importance to the Giants – the same way the Lombardi Trophy means something a little extra special to the Green Bay Packers.

But there was Smith, giving Giants’ fans the Great Geno Coaster ride that gave Jets’ fans agita. Simply put, the new No. 3 looked like the same old No. 7.

Even Smith was aware of his uneven performance, noting that he had “some good plays, and one bad play.” He added that the interception was a “miscommunication” between himself and intended target Roger Lewis. Smith tried changing the route at the line of scrimmage, pre-snap, but apparently Lewis didn’t hear the audible. It killed a promising drive for New York that began at their own 30-yard line.

The former second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft knows he can’t have those types of mistakes, errors in judgement, and turnovers, if he expects to be a play away from replacing Manning.

“That’s kind of what preseason’s for, is to get out those kinks and to get things on film so you can go watch and learn from them,” Smith said.

McAdoo hopes Smith sheds the Geno Coaster stigma quickly, because if not, he’ll be forced to turn to either Johnson or maybe even rookie Davis Webb.

Smith saw 29 snaps, last night, while Johnson (2-of-4, six yards) had just six, and Webb didn’t play at all. Smith may be the best choice, judging by NFL pedigree, as Johnson is playing on his ninth team, and Webb is still way over his head. But that’s not too comforting a thought for Giants’ fans.

It was almost assumed that Smith would be the unquestioned No. 2 behind Manning when he signed as a free agent this spring. But after throwing an interception in each preseason game and having fumble issues in practices, there’s no slam dunk winner for that coveted backup gig.

McAdoo said as much, leaving even a sliver of a chance for Webb.

“I think we all have to be careful about making assumptions,” McAdoo said of the belief that Webb has no shot. “Josh and Geno right now are competing for the No. 2 spot, and if it doesn’t look the way we want it to look, Davis will get a crack.”

It’s a quick turnaround from last night’s game in Cleveland to Saturday’s “Snoopy Bowl” battle against the Jets, to their August 31 matchup in New England. So, if Johnson still has trouble moving the offense and Smith keeps turning over the ball, Giants fans just may have to close their eyes, say a prayer, and hope Manning continues that Iron Man streak, because the third alternative is even more troubling than the previous two choices – and that’s saying a lot.

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