Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 21, 2009: In last week’s preview, I talked about how every snap is the ball game. I mentioned that the backs had to protect the football. I said that in close games against the Eagles, special teams always seemed decisive. I said the defensive key was not to give up the cheap, big play to DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. I warned the play of S Michael Johnson may be critical. Sigh.
How different would that game have been had three plays not happened: Brandon Jacobs’ fumble, the punt return touchdown by Jackson, and the deep touchdown pass to Jackson where Johnson screwed up? 21 points. Every snap is the ball game.
The Giants are what they are: a 7-6 football team. It’s shocking to me that this team’s defense is so bad. There have been glimpses of improvement. The run defense has been better in recent weeks. The pass rush flashed against the Chargers, Falcons, and Cowboys. But then there have been the all-around dreadful defensive performances against the Saints, Eagles (twice), and Broncos.
I’m at a loss for words, which is saying something. I have no clue what kind of performance we will see from the Giants this weekend. The Redskins have been playing very tough football the past five games and came very, very close to beating the Eagles, Cowboys, and Saints. Moreover, there was a major front office upheaval this week in Washington and every player on that team knows he is now officially playing for his job. The new general manager is watching closely.
But you know what? So what! Just win a freaking game! Let’s see some defense!
Giants on Offense: The Redskins have a tough defense. Their defensive line has been vastly improved this year with the additions of DT Albert Haynesworth and RDE/SLB Brian Orakpo (11 sacks). DE Andre Carter (11 sacks) is having a big year rushing the passer as well. The linebacking corps is active, with the ageless wonder London Fletcher perhaps having his best season. The secondary is a bit overrated, but solid. This is a well-coached defense.
The Giants’ offense has performed well in three of its last four games, with the lone exception being the dreadful performance against the Broncos. Not coincidentally, the offense performs well when Eli Manning performs well. It’s a quarterback’s league after all. So guess what the primary key is? Yup…Eli.
That said, the offensive line has to give him time. There are a lot of critical match-ups this week: LG Rich Seubert versus Haynesworth, and rookie Will Beatty and veteran David Diehl against the pass-rushing threats outside. The backs and tight ends must block well too, like they did against the Eagles. The Redskins will blitz.
What I really liked about the Giants’ offense last week was seeing the inside running game finally looking like it did last year. The Giants punished the Eagles between the tackles. That will be harder to do with Hayneworth and Fletcher manning the middle. But that’s what I would do, sprinkled in with some outside runs.
The biggest problem the Giants’ receivers are having right now is holding onto the football. But if you had said before the season that the Giants would be getting this type of performance out of Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Kevin Boss, we would have all been thrilled. You can expose the Redskins’ secondary. They are particularly susceptible to the double move. Take advantage of that aggressiveness with play-action, look offs, and pump fakes.
Giants on Defense: While the Redskins’ defense has been mostly very solid this year, it was the Redskins’ offense (combined with special teams errors) that has cost them a lot of games this year. That said, the Redskins’ offense has really come alive the last five weeks. They have scored 27, 6, 24, 30, and 34 points. QB Jason Campbell is playing better. His young receivers are finally starting to make some plays, particularly TE Fred Davis and WR Devin Thomas. WR Santana Moss remains a dangerous threat in the open field. A completely revamped offensive line that has been hurt by injuries has remarkably being doing a decent job. The running game has struggled.
What it comes down to is this – can the Giants’ defense dramatically turn it around in the last three regular-season games, starting on Monday night against the Redskins? As mentioned, there have been flashes of improvement. While the Redskins have been performing much better offensively, this is not the Saints or Eagles. We should see a performance more similar to the one the Giants had against the Cowboys two weeks ago (hopefully without all the passing yardage). Much depends on whether or not Corey Webster (knee) plays and how effective he will be with that injury. If he can’t go, Aaron Ross may have to shift back to cornerback and start. (Late Update: Aaron Ross may not play due to a hamstring injury; Kevin Dockery may start).
This is an offensive line the Giants should play well against. No more excuses. Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty, Barry Cofield, and Fred Robbins desperately need a breakout game. The time is now. There is no tomorrow. Stop the run, get after the quarterback.
We’ve seen quite a transition at linebacker the last few weeks. Michael Boley is the present and future at weakside linebacker. Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, and Bryan Kehl have been getting more looks. That should continue. These three inexperienced players will make mistakes, but they have talent. Now is the time to start making plays. That’s what it all comes down to – can you make plays? In addition, the linebackers need to do a good job on the tight end – something that has caused them problems all year.
Stating the obvious, the play of the safeties has killed the Giants. Michael Johnson is having a terrible season. C.C. Brown can make plays against the run, but is a liability in coverage. Does Aaron Rouse have a future in the NFL? He flashes at times, but gets beat in coverage too much. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – I would take my chances in man coverage rather than too much zone with the bozos we have at safety. The Eagles didn’t go after the Giants’ cornerbacks last week – they went after the safeties. Man up. If you are going to lose, lose with your best secondary players covering their best receivers. Stop playing scared. Playing safe isn’t working.
Last word…watch out for the trick play…especially those involving Antwaan Randle El.
Giants on Special Teams: The Giants’ specials helped win the game against the Cowboys. They helped lose the game against the Eagles. What will it be this week? Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn should also be on the hot seat. His unit has hurt more than it has helped this year.
Watch out for trickery on special teams. Remember the Skins scored on a fake field goal in the opener. They have nothing to lose.