Oct 182012
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 21, 2012: The Giants are in decent (not great) shape heading into a critical game with the Washington Redskins.  At 4-2, the Giants are all alone in first place in the NFC East.  However, they are 0-2 in the division with two teams one game back at 3-3, including the Redskins.

It is tempting for many Giants fans to say this game won’t be a problem.  However, there are two  facts that should make everyone take this game very seriously:

(1) The Washington Redskins swept the Giants last year.  And neither game was particularly close, especially the second one at MetLife Stadium.  That game was 23-3 until a late Giants’ touchdown made the score look somewhat respectable.  The Redskins have been in every game this year.  Two weeks ago they were in a close game against the Falcons and they are coming off of an impressive win against the Vikings.

(2) During the regular-season, the Giants have a very nasty habit of not handling success well.  Right now, the Giants are feeling pretty good about themselves.  And the fans and the press are blowing smoke up their collective ass telling them how good they are.  Historically, and unfortunately, this is not a good position for this team to be in.  The win against the 49ers feels very similar to the win against the Patriots last season.  The Giants were 6-2 at that point.  A month later, they were 6-6.  It’s a new season so let’s see how the 2012 version handles success.  The  next two division games are CRITICAL.

Giants on Offense: For some reason, the Washington Redskins’ defense seem to give the Giants more problems than they do other teams.   That said, the Redskins lost a couple of key components early in the season when LB Brian Orakpo and DE Adam Carriker were lost for the season.  And through six games, the Redskins’ defense has struggled, currently ranked 27th in yards allowed (417.2 per game) and 26th in points allowed (28.8 per game).   The defense performs much better against the run (8th in the NFL, allowing 88.8 yards per game) than the pass (32nd in the NFL, 328.3 yards per game).  Since the Giants have one of the League’s best passing attacks, this would suggest the Giants should emphasize the passing game a bit more this week.

The Redskins operate out of the 3-4.  With Orakpo out, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (3.5 sacks) is now Washington’s best pass rusher.  The down three of LDE Jarvis Jenkins, NT Barry Cofield, and RDE Stephen Bowen are good-sized and solid players who flash from time to time.  The two inside linebackers – London Fletcher  and Perry Riley have combined for over 100 tackles thus far on the season.  The Giants will certainly want to remain balanced and run the football, but the Redskins have done a better job this season defending the run than the Giants.

It’s the secondary where the Redskins have really struggled and if the Giants come out in a 3-WR set and force Washington cover Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, and Martellus Bennett, they should continue to struggle as long as Eli Manning is on his game.  One key is to be a bit careful of CB DeAngelo Hall.  Hall can be beaten badly on double moves, but he also has a knack of making big interceptions.  The rest of the secondary just isn’t very good.

The running game has returned for the Giants and it is very tempting to keep that going.  But it is equally tempting to come out throwing, get a comfortable lead, and thereby help take away a very productive running game away from Washington.  The Redskins are scoring a lot of points and the Giants may have to win a shootout-type game here.

Giants on Defense: The Washington Redskins are FIFTH in total offense in the NFL and THIRD in scoring.  They are SECOND in the NFL in rushing.  Let that sink in for a moment.  This is a VERY dangerous offense.

Unfortunately for the Giants and the rest of the NFC East, Robert Griffen III looks like the real deal.  While he has had a few hiccups along the way, for a rookie under a lot of attention, he has demonstrated a remarkable amount of maturity and poise for someone so young and inexperienced.  He’s not just a runner either.  He can throw the football.

But the early focus for the Giants MUST be stopping an underappreciated Redskins’ running attack.  Rookie HB Alfred Morris is one of the best kept secrets thus far in the season.  He’s not tall, but he is a very strong, powerful, and determined runner who can be difficult to bring down.  Morris seems particularly well suited to Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme up front.  Morris has already rushed for 538 yards on 116 carries (4.6 yards per carry average).  Morris – not Griffin – is the early key.  The zone blocking scheme puts a lot of pressure on defenders to maintain their gap responsibility as the back will stretch the play out and then look for the open gap on the cutback.

Now we come to Griffin.  He puts added pressure on a defense because the Redskins will call quite a few running plays in order to take advantage of his athleticism.  He’s averaging almost seven yards a carry and has rushed for six touchdowns!  They will call QB draws and they will run option-like plays on the perimeter.  The key thing with him is you have to hit him.  And hit him hard.  He’s not a big guy and he’s already taken some big hits.  Again, gap responsibility is everything in this game.  It’s much more important than sacks.  Stay in your lanes and don’t let Griffin burn you either inside or outside.  The Giants did a tremendous job against Cam Newton, but let Michael Vick do some damage on them.

In Shanahan’s offense, the play-action fake and QB rollout in the opposite direction is a big component of the game.  The backside end has to be wary of this.

Do not underestimate Griffin as a thrower.  He has an incredibly strong arm and is completing an astounding 70.2 percent of his passes.   Griffin has only thrown two interceptions.  That’s pretty damn impressive.

It will help the Giants if WR Pierre Garcon (foot) misses the game.  Without Garcon, the Redskins receivers are not overly impressive.  33-year old WR Santana Moss has flashed some in recent weeks, including a 77-yarder against the Falcons.   He has 16 catches as do fellow receivers Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan.  Griffin’s favorite target thus far has been TE Fred Davis with 23 receptions.   Again, be wary of the pass to the tight end or back on the QB rollout off of play action.  Like the backside end, the linebackers in coverage must not over-commit.  While the Redskins don’t impress you with quality in the receiving department, they do make you account for everyone as Shanahan will use all the receivers, tight ends, and backs in the passing game, even lesser known reserves.  The key is discipline in coverage.  Stay at home.  Don’t freelance.

And that really is the operative word this week for the defense – discipline.  Discipline in gap responsibility against Morris and Griffin in the running game.  Discipline on the pass rush so Griffin doesn’t scramble for big yardage.  Discipline in coverage as there will be a lot of misdirection and use of various targets in the passing game.

Giants on Specials: Brandon Banks of the Redskins is very dangerous as a kickoff and punt returner.  He was prominently mentioned by Tom Coughlin in his opening remarks on Wednesday when discussing the Redskins.

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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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