Week 8 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs New York Giants
The Washington Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys last week 20-17 after a last second field goal was missed and sent the FedEx field crowd into an absolutely frenzy. It was great to be inside the stadium and see the fans as energetic and ecstatic as they were. It was a reminder that this city still loves the Redskins, and is hungry to see this team win. It was also a reminder that the Redskins can’t score touchdowns in the second half of football games. Well, offensive touchdowns at least. To put it into perspective, the Redskins now have scored just as many offensive as they have defensive touchdowns in the second half this entire season. How many is that you ask? A whopping ONE touchdown, and the one offensive touchdown scored was against the Saints in a game that was already well out of hand. The Redskins have won two games in a row in which both came down to the last play of regulation.
Now the conventionalist will say “a win is a win” or “it doesn’t matter whether you win by 3 or 30”. The realist will speak on what they see with their own eyes, and look at the big picture, and what it means going forward versus just living in that exact moment. I mean lets be real, if the Washington Redskins plan on being a legitimate contender to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, these last two performances will need to serve as what I like to call “transitional wins”, meaning they are wins they stole while trying to figure out how to put four quarters of good, solid football together consistently, and establish an identity. They have been unable to put four whole quarters of solid football together this entire season, and we are approaching the halfway mark. This trend has to stop this week against a 1-6 New York Giant team that are listening to any offers for players on their roster prior to the trade deadline. That doesn’t sound like a team that is trying to position themselves for playoff contention. It sounds like a team that is tapping out and saying “well, there is always next year”. The Redskins need to beat this team into absolute submission at MetLife Field, because if the roles were reversed, the Giants definitely wouldn’t have any sympathy for them.
The Redskins offense will be attempting to move the football against somewhat of a new look Giants defense this week as they traded starting cornerback Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints, and starting defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions. Many will expect a drop off in the defensive effort and production from the Giants this week, but I wouldn’t bet on that. We have seen much crazier things from this NFC East rivalry in the past. The Redskins will need to negate any defensive energy the Giants come out with at home by scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions, and forcing them to play from behind. Forcing the Giants to become a one dimensional passing team by getting out to a big lead will be completely in their favor. They can do so by coming out of the gate aggressively. Everybody that has a pulse knows that the Redskins want to establish Adrian Peterson in the running game early and often. As they should; however, they should go right for the jugular early, and run a play action pass deep to Josh Doctson first play of the game catching the Giants off guard instead of the traditional “Peterson off tackle right” or “Peterson to the left for 3 yards” to start off. Jordan Reed should have a field day this week as the Giant’s secondary has been less than stellar this year. Adrian Peterson should be able to find some daylight running the football as well, as long as the offensive line can continue to open lanes like they did against the Cowboys. The receivers have also played a large part in some of these large chunks of yards in the running game Peterson has been able to acquire with their excellent downfield blocking. Speaking of the wide receivers, the Redskins will need for 3rd year wide receiver Josh Doctson to establish a more prominent role within this offense. They need to be able to make some plays downfield, and with Jamison Crowder out and Paul Richardson banged up, Doctson should be receiving a considerable increase in targets, and that just hasn’t transpired up to this point (only 6 targets last week for 3 receptions and 42 yards).
Every week, I mention Jay Gruden and his need to be more creative offensively. Quite honestly, it has become redundant, and we are still yet to see the consistent offensive pressure and aggression necessary to become an elite unit in this league. This week, against a weak Giants pass rush, and a mediocre linebacker corps, the offense should be able to exploit mismatches all over the field. There are a number of question marks health wise this week, but they proved last week without Crowder, Richardson, and Chris Thompson they are still capable of competing and moving the football. Quarterback Alex Smith has not been fantastic statistically, but right now, as long as he isn’t a liability, and doesn’t cause you games, you have to give him a chance to continue to grow within this offense. He has not had what are supposed to be his top receivers available to him, in addition to his third down back, but he continues to lead this team to wins. The stats will come, but the coach has to put him in the best position to make plays for this team consistently by calling plays that cater to his strengths. In addition to that, Alex has to not be apprehensive in giving his receivers a shot to make plays of their own. Bottom line, this week they need to score fast, score often, then score some more.
The Washington Redskins defensive strategy this week against the New Giants should be similar to the one they had last week versus the Cowboys. The objective this week, stop outstanding rookie Saquan Barkley, and make Giant’s quarterback Eli Manning beat you. Now, in Eli’s defense, he has owned the Redskins in recent years, and overall in his career, so this strategy doesn’t imply he can’t beat them. Redskin fans have seen him time after time morph into PEYTON Manning over night just to beat the Redskins. That said, the Giant offense doesn’t lack weapons, it lacks efficiency. In addition to Saquan Barkley, Eli Manning will have All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham at his disposal as well. Beckham is a walking, talking hundred plus yard, one-plus touchdown game, in human form. He can run every route, and if he gets open, he will keep getting open. The Redskins will need to try and keep him contained, and not let him kill them on 3rd downs, and in the redzone. The Redskin defense will need to stop the run first, and keep stopping the run because Saquan Barkley may be stopped 10 times for 1 yard, but can then break a 60 yarder. They have to prevent that from happening this Sunday in order to keep the Giants at bay. They also have to account for him in the passing game as Barkley is the team’s second leading receiver behind only Beckham.
Last week, we saw the emergence of the Redskin pass rush, and the resurrection of Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. This defensive unit is anchored by their young defensive front lead by Jonathan Allen. Allen, along with Matt Ioannidis, and Daron Payne should have an absolute field day with this Giants offensive line that hasn’t been able to block it’s own blessings this season. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith should be able to pad their stats in this week’s matchup, and make this routine going into the second half of the season. The Redskins have done a much better job overall tackling in recent weeks, and they will need to continue that this week. Especially linebackers Mason Foster and Zach Brown who both are feeding off that defensive frontline, and becoming a force as a tandem on that second level of the defense. The defensive backfield looks like it may be without Quinton Dunbar for the second week in a row, which means rookie Greg Stroman will get his second consecutive start. Stroman was solid overall last week, but proved he is susceptive to the double-move. The Giants will look to capitalize off of that, and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will need to make sure he has reiterated to Stroman, and all the defensive backs the importance of staying disciplined to their coverage technique. The Redskins overall defensively need to play aggressively, but play smart. Bring pressure up the A gaps when they can, especially in 3rd and long yardage situations, and keep everything in front of them. They do these things, everything else will take care of itself, and they will be in great position to win this football game on the road.
Punter Tres Way needs to continue winning the field position battle for the Redskins this week, and make the Giants drive the length of the field to score. The longer they have to drive, the higher the probability Eli makes a mistake. Keep punts inside the 20, and just keep the football away from any imminent danger. Kicker Dustin Hopkins has been the epitome of consistent this season. He continues to make kicks from all distances and not just inside of 40. He needs to continue that, and on kickoffs, make sure he keeps the football in either corner of the endzone, but in play unless he kicks it out of the back of the endzone. Coverage teams need to stay disciplined in their lanes and gang tackle. Just make a play. Return teams have shown a slight bit of life, but they are going to need more from the kick return and punt return teams going forward.
The Washington Redskins need to approach this game like its a must win game, albeit their track record under Gruden in must win situations hasn’t exactly been exemplary. The Skins are completely in control of their own destiny. This week, they have an opportunity to acquire another divisional victory, and put an end to any hope the Giants have of a late season surge. This game is all about wanting to be great. It’s all about conquering mediocrity for this team. The Redskins need to become allergic to losing. They need to have nightmares about it. Dread it. Winning should become the culture, and it starts with taking care of business in games such as this one against a reeling Giants team on Sunday. They can’t come in with a gameplan in an effort not to lose. They need to go out and rip the Giants’ hearts out of their chest, and dispose of it accordingly. Redskins fans I’m sure want to believe they can go out and take care of their business on Sunday, but some I’m sure are waiting for the proverbial train to derail. It doesn’t happen this week however, as the Redskins take care of business 27-16.