Sep 172004

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 19, 2004: Enough is enough with the negativity! This crap about Coughlin fining the players for being late has been blown way out of proportion. So has the reported demise of the Giants. The Giants are 0-1, nothing more, nothing less. Beating the division-rival Redskins at home will do wonders for team morale and confidence, not to mention that of the franchise’s finicky fans.

This game will not be easy. The Redskins are a confident team right now, especially their defense. Not only is Joe Gibbs a legendary head coach, but the Skins have put together a top-notch assistant coaching staff, loaded with experience. This is a game the Giants can win, but the entire team has to come to play – offense, defense, and special teams. If one of these components plays as poorly as the defense did against the Eagles last week, then the Giants will be hard-pressed to win.

Giants on Defense: Last week was embarrassing and if this unit has any pride, it will come to play and dominate on Sunday. Of course, the paramount objective must be to stop the Redskin running attack and Pro Bowl HB Clinton Portis. The onus is going to be on the defensive line and linebackers to fill gaps up front, but the secondary will also have to be aggressive in run force. And for God’s sake the team needs to tackle much better than last week. Joe Gibbs and their offensive line coach Joe Bugel will show no mercy. They are going to test the Giants up front and challenge their ability to tackle again. In particular, they must be salivating the opportunity to punish the Giants’ mediocre linebackers (especially if SLB Carlos Emmons doesn’t play).

That all said, Gibbs knows that the Giants will be focusing on run defense first and foremost. Because of that, he may try to cross the Giants up early with some deep pass attempts. The big deep threat is Laveranues Coles and CB Will Allen, who struggled last week against the pass and the run, is likely to be matched up on him. When Allen is on top of his game, this is a good match-up for the Giants as Allen has the speed and deep coverage-ability to stay with Coles. And CB Will Peterson matches up better with the more physical Rod Gardner. The other guy to worry about is Giant-killer James Thrash versus nickel back Terry Cousin.

The Redskins have some good talent on the offensive line in LT Chris Samuels and RG Randy Thomas. But they lost Jon Jansen in the preseason and now Kenyatta Jones starts at right tackle. Derrick Dockery is the left guard and Lennie Friedman the center. This group played exceptionally well last week against the Buccaneers, holding the aggressive Tampa Bay defense sackless and affording QB Mark Brunell all kinds of pass protection. This is not a good sign for a Giants’ defense that struggled to pressure QB Donovan McNabb last week. Gibbs emphasizes protecting the quarterback at all costs. The Giants need to find a way to exert better pressure or it may be another long day for the defense. Not only does the entire defensive line need to get after the quarterback, but the Giants’ blitzers need to start getting there too. Last week, the Giants blitzed the Eagles a ton, but the blitzers rarely got there.

The Redskin tight ends are mostly blocking types, but the Giants still need to keep an eye on Walter Rasby and Robert Royal.

What is becoming ridiculous and the absurd inability of this defense to force turnovers. It won’t get any easier this week as Mark Brunell is one of the hardest quarterbacks in the NFL to intercept. The Giants also have to be aware of his scrambling. He’s a leftie too and that presents different challenges in itself for the defensive backfield.

Stop the run, get after the quarterback, cover the receivers, and create some turnovers! Show us some old-fashioned Giants’ defense!

Giants on Offense: The offensive line took a step forward last Sunday, but things will get no easier this week. The strength of the Redskins right now is their defense. And this defense played exceptionally well for almost all of the preseason and the first regular season game. Indeed, they have been dominating. Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams has installed a super-aggressive, attack-style defense that is finally using LB LaVar Arrington the way he should be used – and that is moving forward and attacking the quarterback from different angles. The other outside linebacker, strongsider Marcus Washington, is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league. He can blitz, play the run, and cover. Both of these guys are often sent after the quarterback. I also expect to see Mike Barrow back in the line-up this week. His has been hampered by a knee injury, but has practiced. He is a good blitzer too. And Greg Williams is not shy about sending defensive backs either. Williams’ background is from the Buddy Ryan/Jeff Fisher school…attack, attack, attack.

So the big key up front will be pass protection against the blitz by the offensive line, tight ends, and backs. It’s scary to think that Tiki Barber may be called up to block a guy like Arrington on the blitz, but it may come to that. TE Visanthe Shiancoe needs to pick up his game in the blocking department as he struggled last week. And Jim Finn needs to be much more aggressive and physical in both pass protection and run blocking. The Redskins present different problems than the Eagles. Their defensive line is not as strong as the Eagles, but their linebackers are much better.

The Giants need to take control of the Skins defensive line. An interesting battle will be former Giant DT Cornelius Griffin versus RG Chris Snee. Luke Petitgout must dominate DE Phillip Daniels. The strongside end, Renaldo Wynn is an ordinary player who David Diehl will face. Jason Whittle will knock heads against DT Brandon Noble, a blue-collar-type. The Giants’ offensive line has a chance to negate the line, but what will make things difficult will be the movement up front and attacking style of the linebackers. When the tight ends are called upon to block the ends, the pulling offensive line must take out the linebackers. So must Finn and OC Shaun O’Hara on inside runs.

There is only one player in the Redskins’ secondary who scares me and that is rookie FS Sean Taylor. He looks as good as advertised. Taylor has incredible instincts against the passing game and such great range that he makes plays on footballs in the air that other safeties can’t possibly make. The Giants can’t be gun-shy of testing him or avoiding certain throws, but they have to take into consideration his ability. Also, he is as big or bigger than many linebackers and also is a deadly weapon on the blitz. Taylor is one of the few guys in the league that probably can handle TE Jeremy Shockey one-on-one.

Speaking of Shockey, it’s time for the Giants’ money players (Shockey, WR Amani Toomer, HB Tiki Barber, WR Ike Hilliard, QB Kurt Warner) to make big plays in clutch situations that enable the team to win a game. Toomer, Hilliard, Shockey, and Warner did not perform well enough to win last weekend. It’s time to step up. The Bucs’ terrible wide receiving corps made the Redskins’ secondary look better than it is. While Fred Smoot is a decent player, Toomer can beat this little punk. Shawn Springs is one of those bigger corners who the more nimble Ike Hilliard may be able to separate from quickly on shorter routes. Depth at corner is not good for the Skins and Tim Carter may finally be able to make some big plays down the field.

Of course this all depends on the blockers up front (keep in mind, this includes the backs and tight ends) giving Warner just enough time to make plays to beat the blitz. It will also be interesting to see how the Skins handle Shockey. He has hurt them in the past and the Skins’ linebackers will have trouble sticking to him. The wild card here is Sean Taylor. But if the Skins focus too much on Shockey, that should open things up for Toomer, Hilliard, and Carter.

It may rain at the Meadowlands on Sunday. If true, the running of Barber and Dayne becomes critical. If the blockers can figure out mentally what the Skins are doing up front, the Giants can pound the ball at them.

Giants on Special Teams: Mark Jones only had one return last week, but the guy does look dangerous on punt returns. I feel a big return coming.

Chad Morton is very dangerous on kick and punt returns. The Giants kickers need to get good height on the ball and the coverage men need to stay in their lanes, get down in a hurry, breakdown properly, and make sure tackles.

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Eric Kennedy

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

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