Oct 052001

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 7, 2001: BBI‘ers know I’m a worry wort and that each opponent the Giants play concerns me. But it’s games like the one on Sunday against the winless, pathetic-looking Redskins that scare the living daylights out of me.

Why? For one, I’m superstitious and a firm believer in when you automatically discount one team, that is when they come up and bite you in the ass. Second, the Giants are coming off two emotionally-draining wins as well as a very physical game last week. Third, the Redskins still have a number of very good players on their roster. Four, every team in the League upsets somebody (see the Patriots-Colts game from last week).

The Giants are expected to win comfortably on Sunday. That is unusual and uncomfortable feeling for Giants fans.

Giants on Offense: The Giants will be missing one of their most important cogs on Sunday with Tiki Barber (hamstring) out. He provides the big play ability out of the Giants’ backfield and it will be up to Ron Dayne and third-down back Damon Washington to step it up. The Redskins’ run defense has not been good this year so expect a heavy dose of Dayne. The Redskins know this too. I wouldn’t get too cute – simply grind the ball at them and then let Kerry Collins use play-action to confuse the safeties. I’m also looking forward to seeing Washington play as I think he is a quite capable third down back and I think he can do some damage as a pass catcher and running the ball on draws.

In order to run Dayne effective, obviously the Giants must block well up front. LT Lomas Brown battles future Hall of Famer DE Bruce Smith, who can still be disruptive (though he picks his spots more). The other big battle up front is RG Ron Stone versus DT Dan Wilkinson, who can stuff the run and rush the passer. LG Jason Whittle will sub for the injured Glenn Parker (concussion). Whittle is more mobile than Parker and the Giants may do better with their favorite pulling plays to the right this week. The Skins are moving Kenard Lang back to defensive end this week with DE Marco Coleman (elbow) out. Lang has not lived up to his lofty draft status, but he is capable of making plays. Luke Petitgout is assigned the job of facing him.

The Redskins are scrambling at linebacker a bit. Shawn Barber (knee) is out for the year and Antonio Pierce will start on the weakside. However, LaVar Arrington (knee) returned to practice yesterday. He’s the kind of guy you want to run at, not away from, due to his explosive athleticism. If he doesn’t play, Robert Jones will sub for him on the strongside. Kevin Mitchell is the inside linebacker. The Giants may want to take advantage of all of this with the short passing game – a smart idea too due to the quality coverage ability of the Redskin corners. We may see the ball thrown to Dayne, Greg Comella, Dan Campbell, and Washington.

But it is also time for Kerry Collins and the receivers to make some more plays down the field in a consistent fashion. Champ Bailey is one of the very best corners in the league. He normally plays on the left side of the defense so it will be interesting to see if he stays with Jurevicius or they move him to cover Amani Toomer. I’m guessing they hope Bailey takes JJ out of the game by himself and then they double Toomer. The other corner is impressive-looking rookie Fred Smoot. The weakness in both of these guys’ game is that they are not good tacklers. I’d love to see Dayne bust one into the secondary because of that. The nickel back is also good – future Hall of Famer Darrell Green. The safeties are average at best.

The biggest risk to the Giants is the unexpected. The Redskins have tinkered with their defense this week and will streamline and simplify schemes that will allow their defensive players greater freedom. Thus, some of the film work the Giants do may prove to be not as helpful as usual.

Giants on Defense: QB Tony Banks is the kind of guy who looks horrible for most of the year, but then will put together one or two gems. Let’s hope it is not this week. Banks is a very streaky passer who is capable of making a bone-head play. But he is mobile and has a strong arm. The best thing the Giants can do, of course, is to rattle him with the pass rush.

But the first priority will be to stop HB Stephen Davis – a player who has given the Giants fits in the past. You have to be careful with Davis and stop him before he gets rolling. Look for the Redskins to test the right-side of the Giants’ defense in the direction of Kenny Holmes and Jessie Armstead.

The Redskins’ offensive line is strong on the outside with impressive youngsters LT Chris Samuels and RT Jon Jansen, but weak in the middle. For yet another week, Holmes has to battle one of the better left tackles in the league. Like last week, the Giants need him to play the run tough first. Jansen has given Strahan problems in the past, even as a rookie. The Giants need a big game from their tackles. DT Keith Hamilton faces Dave Szott and DT Cornelius Griffin faces Matt Campbell. Griffin has been slowed by an ankle injury, but he could have a big game this week against Campbell.

Aside from Davis, the other big weapon on the Skins is Pro Bowl TE Stephen Alexander – an up-and-down player who is capable of making big plays down the field. The Giants need to do a good job of keeping an eye on him.

WR Michael Westbrook (hip) has been slowed by injury. He is expected to play on Sunday but he hasn’t performed well in the Skins’ new West Coast system. Still, he is capable of making big plays. If he doesn’t start, Kevin Lockett will. The other receiver is the physical Rod Gardner, the Skins’ 2001 first round pick who has very good hands. Once again, the rookie corners of the Giants will be on the spot. Also, since the Skins like to throw short, the linebackers of the Giants need to play well in coverage.

Stuff Davis, keep an eye on the tight end, and get after Banks.

Special Teams: The Giants face a very dangerous kick and punt returner this week in Michael Bates. Hopefully, Owen Pochman’s kickoffs are booming this week. P Rodney Williams faces the team that cut him. Amani Toomer needs to be more aggressive returning punts this week with Barber out.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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