Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 8, 2006: This is a critically important game for the Giants. It’s a division game, at home. If the Giants can beat the Redskins, they will even up their record at 2-2 and have a 2-0 record within the NFC East heading into two tough road games.

This game is not so much about the Redskins as it is about the Giants getting back to their roots, that is, the need to play sound defense and an emphasis on the ground attack on offense. New York also needs to have their special teams units re-exert themselves and make a positive difference in a football game. Get back to New York Giants football – be tough, aggressive, physical, and smart. Control the line of scrimmages and make some plays. Most importantly, win.

Giants on Defense: It is not acceptable to have a Giants’ defense ranked near the bottom of the League. It’s not acceptable. We all know the problems – half the defensive starters are new, there are two new defensive backs coaches, and to-date, everyone hasn’t been on the same page. People are running wide open in the secondary and the pass rush hasn’t been there. That shit has stop right now. It may be naïve, it may be too simplistic, but these guys need to stop thinking so much and stop worrying about making mistakes. Be aggressive and kick the ass out of your opponent.

I’m not going to focus on the X’s and O’s so much this week. The keys to stopping the Redskins are fairly obvious. Stop the running game (Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts), keep WR Santana Moss in check (especially with those WR- or “go”-screens), and prevent TE/H-Back Chris Cooley from keeping the chains moving. When the Skins get into the redzone, they almost exclusively look for Cooley or FB/H-Back Mike Sellers. In my opinion, one of the keys is to keep QB Mark Brunell in the pocket. He is not as mobile as he used to be, in fact, he can look downright sluggish at times running with the football. But he is at his most comfortable with bootleg passes. The backside ends must be disciplined and not bite too hard on the play-action.

New York has played the run fairly well this year and that must continue against Washington for the Giants to win. What the G-Men need to do is start making plays on third down. Get off the damn football field. A three-and-out should be expected – not a reason for exuberant celebration. The front four must get after the quarterback and Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis needs to come up with some timely and effective blitzes. Get after Brunell. Harass him…force mistakes.

The linebackers need to be aggressive but also play smart. Gerris Wilkinson will start at weakside linebacker and the Redskins will test his intelligence and coverage skills. They will likely try to take advantage of over-aggressiveness there as well as with former Skins’ LaVar Arrington and Antonio Pierce. Be careful of play-action early. The one thing Wilkinson will give the Giants is a much better athlete at weakside linebacker. He will be interesting to watch – as will his impact on the overall defense as he makes the defense quicker.

The entire secondary obviously needs to pick it up. Sam Madison has experience playing Moss from the old Jets-Dolphins games. A key to keeping him in check will be sure tackling. Everyone needs to run to the ball and the Giants must get good games out of both safeties – not only to help out on Moss, but to cover the H-Backs. It’s time for Will Demps to make some plays.

The most important thing is to be aggressive. Dictate to the Redskins. Come after them. Stuff the run and get after the passer. Play sound coverage and get off the field on third down. Play New York Giants defensive football.

Giants on Offense: Same theme as with the defense. Get back to basics and play physical, aggressive football. You do that on offense by running the football. Hit the Skins with a heavy dose of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs and don’t let up.

QB Eli Manning has played against the Redskins and their defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, three times. He did not play well against them in the first two games, including the 36-0 blowout. But he did play a decent game against Washington in the late-season loss in Maryland last year. Williams likes to rattle quarterbacks, especially young ones, by bringing blitzes from a variety of positions and locations – including cornerbacks. He gambles that his players can get to the quarterback or force the quarterback to make an incorrect decision before the quarterback can spot the weakness in the defense that the blitz caused. The bad news is that Williams is very good at this. The good news is that the Redskins’ defense seems a bit more exploitable this year and Manning is more experienced. When the Giants do put the ball up, I would go early and often in the direction of TE Jeremy Shockey (if healthy) for a variety of reasons. For one, I think Shockey matches up well against the Skins’ linebackers and their strong safety. But just as importantly, when Shockey is involved early and often, it changes the dynamic of the Giants’ offense. And Shockey tends to lift the entire team. With CB Shawn Springs out for the Skins, I think we could see a big day from WR Amani Toomer as well. And I would not be shocked to see this be the game where Tim Carter breaks out. If Williams comes with the blitz – and he will – Carter can take advantage of it. Another way to beat the blitz is to get the ball in the hands of Tiki Barber on passing plays, particularly screens.

That all said, as I mentioned, I would concentrate on the ground attack. Because of the lopsided nature of the previous two games, the Giants have been forced to pass more than they wanted to against the Eagles and Seahawks. The line obviously has to do a good job against an underrated defensive front of the Skins, but we also need to see Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs make some plays. New York must – absolutely must – be productive when running the football. Runs that lose yardage or only pick up 1-2 yards on first and second down will only play into Greg Williams’ hands. Pound the football and be consistent in picking up decent chunks. Just as importantly, it is time to start breaking some big ones.

Giants on Special Teams: Ex-Redskin Chad Morton has been held in check this year but it is time for him to breakout as well. He needs his teammates to give him more room to operate but this would be a good game to get it going on both kickoff and punt returns.

The Skins have very dangerous returners. Rock Cartwright already has a kickoff return for a touchdown and Antwaan Randle El is a dynamic punt returner. David Tyree has largely been invisible and this is a game where the Giants need him and guys like Reggie Torbor, Chase Blackburn, Brandon Short, Jason Bell, and Mathias Kiwanuka to make an impact.

The Giants have good special teams players and coaches…it’s time for them to show it and help the G-Men win a football game.