Game Preview: Washington Football Team at New York Giants, October 18, 2020
My formative years as a New York Giants fan was during the Bill Parcells-Joe Gibbs era during the 1980s. Big Blue Wrecking Crew versus the Hogs. Three hours of punch-you-in-the-face war between two physical teams who respected but despised each other. I was a nervous wreck before each game because each game between these two teams was immensely meaningful. Many of these games became legendary.
Fast forward to October 2020. The 0-5 Giants host 1-4 Washington on Sunday. And I feel nothing. I’m rooting for the Giants to win, but I’m not even sure what’s best for the team in the long term at this point. Sy’56 and I are almost always on the same page, but we were not last year when the Giants and Washington played each other on December 22, 2019 in the “Chase Young Bowl.” Sy felt it was important for the Giants to start develop a winning culture. I wanted Chase Young. On Sunday, we’ll be constantly reminded of that “what might have been” scenario with both Young and Andrew Thomas on the field together.
If Joe Judge is survive and thrive as head coach of the New York Giants, he has to start winning games. This is what Sy was talking about last year when he was addressing developing a winning culture. If the Giants beat Washington and go on to win several more game this year, that will be a positive step in the right direction. But if this is another case of a meaningless, temporary feel-good win against a bad Washington team followed by loss-loss-loss-loss, then it won’t mean much.
THE INJURY REPORT
- WR Darius Slayton (foot – questionable)
- DL Dexter Lawrence (knee – questionable)
- LB Kyler Fackrell (ankle – probable)
- S Jabrill Peppers (ankle – probable)
- S Adrian Colbert (shoulder – questionable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE
As I predicted in last week’s game preview, the bad Giants offense performed better against the bad Cowboys defense, but it was not productive enough. The defense scored one touchdown and set up another inside the 20-yard line. And the offense handed the Cowboys one defensive score and could not move the ball with the game tied late in the game.
The good news that came out of that game is the running game showed some life, as did Darius Slayton. The bad news was continued issues with Daniel Jones, both tackles, Evan Engram, and the lack of any production from the other wide receivers. Other than the team not winning, my problem with watching the Giants offense right now is I know that many of the players we are watching won’t be on the team in 2020. Evan Engram is due for a monster game, but so what? He’s not the answer for this team. I can’t imagine Golden Tate being back. Or Devonta Freeman. Again, if they look good, so what? They’ll be on other teams next year.
As I wrote about last week, all of my attention is on Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton, and the offensive line. You can also now add Austin Mack to this list (for at least this week). But the lack of complementary talent is negatively impacting these players. And I now feel it’s just a matter of time before Matt Peart replaces Cam Fleming at right tackle and Shane Lemieux replaces Kevin Zeitler at right guard. Will this happen before or after the bye? The sooner this is done, the better. Endure the pain this year, minimize it next year.
Washington isn’t a good football team, but they can present problems with their defense. Joe Judge provided a good scouting report:
It really starts up front with the edge players and the interior. They have a number of first round draft picks on their line… That, complemented by their corners and their play-making safeties, really gives them fits for opposing offenses. They do a good job producing pressure up front and capitalizing on the opportunities produced from up front. This is a team that can get after you with just the front four. They can bring pressure, they do a really good job with their movement schemes, and they change up throughout the game. (Defensive Coordinator Jack) Del Rio does a really good job with (Head Coach) Ron (Rivera) as far as scheming for the opponent, changing up. The other thing they do is they really keep it simple for their players to play fast and play ahead.
Andrew Thomas has had two rough outings in a row. Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo sounded sincerely confident in Thomas’ future this week. This will be another good test for him. But the entire offensive line will be under the gun. First-round picks Montez Sweat (3 sacks) and Chase Young (2.5 sacks) are disruptive and can get after the quarterback. Both starting defensive tackles – Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne – were also drafted in the first round. How deep are they? Former 1st-round pick and Giants-killer Ryan Kerrigan is now a back-up. Middle linebacker Jon Bostic is once again leading the team in tackles (42).
Nevertheless, Washington has surprisingly been better against the pass (7th in the NFL) than the run (23rd in the NFL). This, combined with the Giants’ lack of play-makers and issues in pass protection, would suggest the Giants more heavily focus on the ground game in this contest. Personally, I would keep it boring and run a lot, sprinkling in passes to the backs and tight ends. Minimize the chances for turnovers. When throwing the football, former Giant safety Landon Collins can be exposed in coverage.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE
While the Giants defense directly contributed to points on the scoreboard against Dallas, they also came up small again in the crunch. This has been an ongoing problem for the Giants under multiple head coaches and defensive coordinators for years. The defense can’t seem to hold late in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Obviously, this is tied to long-standing pass rush and pass coverage problems. Personally, I was expecting the Giants defense to give an injury-ravaged Cowboys offensive line more problems (though to be fair, Dallas has been the top offense despite offensive line issues all year). If this defense is going to reach the next level, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams have to become more than “solid” and make game-changing plays.
The defense and long-term planning took another hit when Lorenzo Carter suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last weekend. Carter was never going to become a difference-maker, but it was possible for him to develop into a complementary piece. Now his future is up in the air. With Oshane Ximines also now on IR, the Giants will be giving playing time to another guy who probably won’t be with the team next year, Markus Golden. Personally, I’m hoping we’ll see the young guys such as Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin (if activated) steal some snaps. Again, my focus is more on 2021 at this point than beating Washington. Kyler Fackrell will undoubtedly receive more snaps outside, though he is dealing with an ankle issue.
Ryan Lewis is not the answer at corner, but he settled down the position last week. Madre Harper still lurks in the wings at cornerback too. More troubling, as Sy pointed out, is that Julian Love seems to have fallen out of favor (the Giants need to start hitting on these draft picks or they will never get better… so much for the three defensive backs drafted in 2019). In addition, Jabrill Peppers is still hampered by injury and not making much of an impact. Adrian Colbert hurt the team last week. The loss of Xavier McKinney really looms large (even if he returns, he’ll have a ton of rust on him). To cut to the chase, safety was supposed to be a strength but has become a weakness again.
Like the Giants, Washington has struggled mightily on offense. They are dead last in yards per game and 30th in scoring. Washington is a bit of a mess at quarterback. Dwayne Haskins was benched. Kyle Allen, who was with Ron Rivera in Carolina, started last week but left the game with an injury. He’s expected to return to the line-up this week. Wideout Terry McLaurin is the only real threat Washington has and I would suggest the Giants keep James Bradberry on him. Other than that, Washington throws more to their backs (Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic). As Joe Judge pointed out this week, they are very good at the screen game.
Washington can’t run the football (31st in the NFL… ironically, the Giants are 32nd). There is no excuse for the defensive front of NYG to not shut down the running game. When Washington is in obvious passing situations, I would put my more athletic linebackers on the field to deal with the passes to the running backs. This could be an important game for rookies Tae Crowder and Cam Brown.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
I called it. The Giants knew they would have to score points last week and ran a fake field goal for what should have been a touchdown. I am pretty darn sure we’ll see a fake punt soon. Graham Gano has been fantastic. What we need now too is a big return.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on defensive breakdowns at the end of the first half and the end of the game: “I have to get better. I have to call it better, I have to put the guys in a better spot. Is it keeping me up at night? Yeah, it keeps me up a night, I have to figure it out. It’s Week 5 going to Week 6, I have to figure it out.”
THE FINAL WORD
Two bad football teams with two bottom tier offenses that lack talent. This will likely be a low scoring game with the team making fewer turnovers and more plays on special teams wins the game. It will be one of those ugly games where even winning won’t feel particularly good.