Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 25, 2016
This is a big game. Going up 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the NFC East this early would put the Giants in the early driver seat for the division title. The Redskins are the defending NFC East Champions and we’ve seen what happens when the Giants and their fans take the Redskins too lightly (see last year’s game in Landover, Maryland). The Redskins season teeters on the brink as losing would give them a 0-3 record and a 0-2 division record. Expect their best effort.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – questionable
- RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
- DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
- DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out
- FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Washington Redskins are struggling on defense, currently ranked 28th overall (21st against the pass, 27th against the run). Their defensive line is mediocre at best and the secondary has had issues. That said, there are some match-up concerns for the Giants in this game. The Redskins operate a 3-4 defense but they will switch things up quite a bit with various packages. With Marshall Newhouse out, expect the Redskins to try to isolate their best pass rusher – Ryan Kerrigan (who has given the Giants problems in the past) – on Bobby Hart or Will Beatty. Preston Smith and Trent Murhpy are two other LB/DE ‘tweeners who can rush the passer.
The Giants will likely attack the Redskins with a balanced attack, employing an equal amount of running and passing plays. Jennings’ left thumb injury is a concern as the Giants have had issues holding onto the football. The team has one solid rushing game and one poor effort so it will be interesting to see how the team is able to run the ball against a Washington defensive front that has had problems.
What we have seen through the first two games is that Ben McAdoo is heavily relying on the Eli Manning to Odell Beckham-Sterling Shepard-Victor Cruz trio. There has been talk all week about Beckham versus Josh Norman, who is clearly Washington’s best defensive back. Norman did not shadow Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant last week but there has been some reporting that he will shadow Beckham in this contest. The Giants can’t and won’t get caught up with these concerns. Beckham is talented enough to beat any cornerback in the NFL and the Giants can exploit the other defensive backs in the secondary with any of their top three receivers.
What the Giants do need to stop doing is turning the football over. That hasn’t cost them yet, but it will if it continues. They have four turnovers in first two games. They also need to get back to their Week 1 success in the redzone.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
On paper, this looks like a good match-up for the Giants. Much of the success of the Redskins offense is based on their ability to run the football. While they are currently ranked 25th in rushing in terms of yards per game, Washington is 6th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (4.7). If the Giants can duplicate their early season success in stopping the run, that will place a lot more pressure on QB Kirk Cousins, who has been shaky thus far. Cousins has had some rough moments against the Giants and the Giants are due for some turnovers (none so far despite a far more athletic, aggressive, and talented defense).
That all said, while the Cowboys get all of the attention in the division for their offensive line, the Redskins have a pretty darn strong group as well. The Men in Blue up front had better not take them lightly. Matt Jones is a very talented running back and the Giants need to keep him in check. Much of the Skins offense is also centered around play-action – look for a heavy dose of that as Washington tries to sucker the Giants young and aggressive safeties. Landon Collins and Nat Berhe are going to be on the spot.
Cousins is a strange quarterback. At times he looks terrible, at other times he looks amazing. While he has justly been criticized for a rough start (1 touchdown, 3 interceptions), he still is completing an outstanding 65 percent of his passes. Cousins tends to throw more underneath (hence his higher completion percentage) and when he throws farther down field, he tends to get into trouble. That said, the Redskins have some very dangerous outside weapons including DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder. There will be a temptation by the cornerbacks to sit on the shorter stuff, but they need to be very careful of the occasional deep shots. In addition, Washington will employ bubble screens to the wideouts so the corners will have to be aggressive in countering that. Tight end Jordan Reed is an exceptional receiving tight end who has giving the Giants fits.
The game plan is obvious. Stop the run. Get after Cousins and force him to make bad decisions.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The added talent and athleticism on the Giants roster is starting to translate to special teams. For example, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins are a threat on every field goal attempt. What the Giants need to clean up is their punt coverage (kickoff coverage – knock on wood – has been good so far). Dwayne Harris is due to break one.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on the safety position: “Yeah, it’s getting to be a concern. We’ll miss Darian Thompson. He kind of communicated back there and kind of glues things together. Landon’s just got to step up and help out the guy that’s next to him, whether it’s Nat Berhe or whoever it is. But, we’re getting thin at safety.”
THE FINAL WORD:
This is a game that a Tom Coughlin team (circa 2012-15) would lose. It scares the heck out of me because this is probably the Redskins season. Meanwhile, the Giants have been feeling good about themselves and talking a bit too much trash for my taste this week. The Giants are the better team, but if they don’t match the Redskins intensity, they will lose.