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Week 14 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs New York Giants

If you didn’t know better, Washington Redskins fans would think their season was over and there was no hope for them to win the division or make the playoffs as a Wild Card. With all the drama and injuries compounded by a three game losing streak, it may be hard for Skins’ supporters to find the silver lining in these recent transgressions. Despite losing three straight games, two quarterbacks, and being forced to start a quarterback who last took a snap in January 2017, the Redskins still remain very much in the Wild Card hunt, and are only one game out of the division lead. This week, they face a New York Giant football team that has been playing a more inspired brand of football lately. This is the second meeting between the two with the Redskins winning the first battle at MetLife. Since that game, these two teams seem to be heading in opposite directions.

The Redskins are reeling, and need to turn things around quickly while the Giants are seemingly playing with a new sense of pride and competitive spirit. The Redskins are attempting to rebound from a painful Monday Night Football loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez who had been signed just under two weeks prior to that game was forced to lead an offense already suffering from a myriad of injuries across the offense line. He did some good things that the Redskins may be able to build on going forward. The interesting thing is as consistently poor as the offense has been this season as a whole, Redskin followers have been afforded the opportunity to establish low expectations from the offense. I can’t say the same for the defense. The defense has continually regressed during the last six games of the season. Earlier in the year, they were impossible to run on, gave up very few big plays as a unit, and were a solid tackling team in space. Recent weeks have proven otherwise, and this week against a Giants team that has weapons across the board, they will attempt to reestablish that identity.

Mark Sanchez is in a situation he could have never fathomed he would be in just a few weeks ago. He has the chance to walk into FedEx Field on Sunday as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, and with the esteemed opportunity of leading the team to the playoffs and/or division championship. The author of “the butt fumble” has an unprecedented opportunity to change his history and change what he is ultimately remembered for. Well, maybe not completely change it, but at least alter it a bit. All that said, he has been thrown into a tough situation where there are injuries across the offensive line, lack of explosiveness at the wide receiver position, and offensive play calling that has continually lacked creativity and already lacks productiveness. When you have a new quarterback with these types of issues around him, the coach has got to find ways to simplify the offense to minimize the amount of thinking and holding on to the football the quarterback has to do. Also, getting an early lead in this game will be imperative as that will take a lot of pressure off of Sanchez and the offense.

Tight end Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, who is still trying to find his legs after being out multiple weeks, will need to be Sanchez’s security blankets and constantly make themselves available. Backup tight end Vernon Davis should also be included in routes when the Redskins give max protection looks, and send him into the flats or up the hash using play action passing. Adrian Peterson was nonexistent last week in the running game with the exception of a 90 yard touchdown run he had in the second quarter. The Redskins will need to find ways to open up running lanes for the play action pass to be consistently effective. They cannot allow the Giant defense to make them one dimensional, or this game will be over before it even begins. Wide receiver Josh Doctson has played increasingly better as the season has gone on, but he will need to step up even more this week and become a playmaker for this Redskin offense. Last week, we saw the return of Jamison Crowder to the unit. Crowder has four games left to prove why the Redskins should bring him back, and/or why another team should pay him considerable dollars to join them. Crowder is needed more now than ever as the Redskins will require all hands be on deck for this game, and for the remainder of this season. If the Redskins can find a way to score some early points, and put some pressure on the Giants defense, they can make this into a competitive game. If they come out and are stagnant, it will be another lackluster day offensively for the home team.

This week may be the most painful in regards to addressing the Redskins’ defensive approach. The Redskins have done so many things poorly in recent weeks, I almost don’t know where to begin. Well, how about we go back to the drawing board, which is where I hope the Redskins went after this most recent loss. The drawing board meaning FUNDAMENTALS and DISCIPLINE. Understanding as a defensive lineman your gap responsibility. Understanding as a middle linebacker how not to over-pursue, and maintain gap integrity. Recognizing formations and knowing your responsibilities as a defensive back. Elementary things like gang tackling or maybe watching the football and not going offsides. Concepts like getting your hands on the receiver and not allowing them a free release into their routes when in press coverage during 3rd and short yardage situations. The Redskins have been very frustrating to watch as a student of the game. Teams have been gashing them in the run game, and then acquiring large chunks of yardage in the passing game. As a defensive coordinator, you have to find a way to take SOMETHING away from the opposing team. You can’t just allow them to continue to open up the playbook while you sit back and just “hope” you can get a stop.

The Redskins have gone from a physical, and imposing defense in a lot of people’s eyes, to a team you can do whatever you want against. It definitely won’t help this week as defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis will most likely not be suited up for the second straight week, and cornerback Quinton Dunbar has officially been ruled out for the remainder of the season. I’m not going to waste my time talking about “the Redskins’ need to bring pressure consistently, especially in the A gaps in order to force Eli into getting the ball out faster than he wants”. I’m not going to dwell on the importance of containing Saquon Barkley, and accounting for him on downs 1-4 all over the field, and how he needs to be gang-tackled at all times. I’m not going to insult myself by discussing Odell Beckham’s play making ability and explosiveness, and how more than one defender should be watching him at all times. I could easily add to that and say Josh Norman needs to be in his hip pocket for the majority of the day, but why waste my time? I could discuss how Tim Settle and the rest of the starting defensive linemen need to step up in the absence of Matt Ioannidis, but what would that accomplish. I could go on and on about Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan’s importance in collapsing the pocket and knocking quarterback Eli Manning on the ground repeatedly. It won’t accomplish anything. At the end of the day, the Redskin defense will have to come together as a unit and say “not another yard”. They will have to have accountability and fortitude while deciding “nothing will keep me from making this play”. If the Redskins do this, they have enough talent on defense to give them a fighting chance in this football game. They should be able to generate turnovers and force the Giants into tough third and long situations if they play the way they are capable of.

This is a must win game for the Washington Redskins. Hell, at this point they are all must win. They can’t afford to lose this game at home with the season still in the balance. They have a lot to play for right now, and can’t walk around feeling sorry for themselves and using injuries as an excuse to under perform. They need to instead use that as motivation to play harder and with more intensity. They have to figure out how much they want to win. As professionals and as competitors, they owe it to the fans and to themselves to leave everything they have on the field this Sunday against the New York Giants. If Mark Sanchez can protect the football and the defense can generate a couple turnovers themselves, they will be in good shape in the final quarter. This would be a great game for special teams to give them a scoring boost, or at the very least contribute to positive field position. Tress Way has been the special teams MVP pretty much every week this season, but it would be great to see a return man with that esteemed honor this week. The Redskins fight and scratch for a narrow victory 23-20 against the New York Giants. As you were...

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