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Giants vs. Washington: 5 Players to watch in Week 9

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The Giants will travel to the nation's capital to take on Washington in Week 9 in yet another NFC East showdown.

The Giants are in the midst of a six-week stretch in which they play five division games. Joe Judge's squad lost close games to the Cowboys and Eagles, but were able to pull off the win against Washington in Week 6. Kyler Fackrell posted a strip-sack of Washington QB Kyle Allen with a few minutes left, allowing rookie linebacker Tae Crowder to return the fumble 43 yards for the winning touchdown.

Washington should be fresh coming off their Week 8 bye. Prior to the week off, Ron Rivera's team took on the Cowboys at FedExField and picked up their second division win of the season. Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci were held to a total of 114 passing yards while being sacked three times apiece, as Washington won, 25-3. 

Here are five players to keep an eye on in this NFC East battle.

QB Daniel Jones

Jones has been a mainstay on this list all season. Inn recent weeks, he has started to look like the quarterback who threw 24 touchdowns in 12 starts as a rookie last season. Jones has thrown multiple touchdowns in two consecutive games after going five games with just one combined scoring strike. He threw for 256 yards against the Buccaneers last week, his highest-yardage total since throwing for 279 yards against the Steelers in Week 1.

Jones has also carried the ball 34 times for 316 yards (9.3 avg.) and ranks third among quarterbacks in rushing behind Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson. Jones has registered at least 20 rushing yards in all but one game this year.

Jones has recorded a turnover in every game this season (nine interceptions, four fumbles). Washington comes into this weekend with the league's top-ranking pass defense (185.9 avg.) and has forced nine turnovers.

"Quarterbacks who are worth their salt have a playmaking instinct in them..." offensive coordinator Jason Garrett told reporters this week. "Over time, you learn through experience what plays you simply have to fold on, and you have to get the ball out of your hand and live for another day. Whether it's punting on the drive or just simply going to 2nd-and-10, I think that's an important thing to understand. The more situations you're in, if you approach them the right way, you'll learn from those experiences. Daniel continued to do that. Most guys I've been around have gone through that very similar process."

TE Evan Engram

Engram is coming off one of his stronger performances of the season against Tampa Bay. He reeled in five passes on 10 targets for 61 yards, adding a rush for 9. It was the second straight game in which the young tight end recorded at least five receptions, and the second time he has topped the 60-yard mark. His 10 targets matched Sterling Shepard for the most on the team. Over the last two games, Engram has been targeted a total of 19 times, turning that into 11 receptions for 106 yards.

Washington's pass defense has had some difficulties with tight ends. In their Week 1 matchup against the Eagles, Washington allowed Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz to catch touchdown passes. Cleveland's Harrison Bryant and Baltimore's Mark Andrews also have scored against the WFT. In fact, five of the 10 passing touchdowns the unit has allowed this season were caught by tight ends.

LT Andrew Thomas

Rookie Andrew Thomas has been thrown straight into the gauntlet this season. This time, he gets a rematch with Washington's talented group of edge rushers. In the first meeting between these two teams, Washington sacked Jones only once, the lowest sack total allowed by the Giants this season. Veteran Ryan Kerrigan recorded the lone sack, while the talented duo of Chase Young and Montez Sweat being held in check.

Thomas is coming off one of the strongest performances of his season. Going up against the talented edge rushing duo of the Bucs' JPP and Shaquil Barrett, Thomas surrendered four pressures on 49 pass blocking snaps, earning himself a 65.7 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest pass-blocking grade he has received this year. Washington enters this matchup ranking sixth in the NFL with 22 sacks, led by Sweat (five) and Kerrigan (four). Thomas has also seen his run-blocking grade rise to a solid 64.0, following some recent strong play in the run game.

"Still a lot of work to do," Thomas told reporters this week. "I think I'm making progressions every week. Small steps every day, but I'm continuing to work on getting better…

"It's just focusing on my technique. Trying to make it muscle memory, so I don't have to think about it. There will be some plays where I might slip up with my hand placement or my footwork in my set. Just trying to nail all those things in so I do it every time."

DL Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams was the Giants' highest-graded player against the Bucs, earning an overall PFF grade of 85.7. However, his production goes even further than the stat sheet shows. Williams has earned an 80.3 overall grade through eight games, the highest mark on the team and 13th among the league's interior defensive linemen. He is tied for 7th among IDL with 24 total pressures, and his 80.8 run defense grade ranks fourth at the position.

"The biggest thing for Leo (Leonard Williams) was let's hit quick man, let's go," defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said this week. "Let's hit the move quick and let's go, get to the quarterback. Just do that… The biggest thing for me is pad level. When it comes back to the rush, fortunately football is simple and I'm a simple dude. It comes back to pad level. The pad level leads to the violence, whether it's the run game or the pass game."

Washington has given up 26 sacks on the season, the third-highest total in the league. The Giants took down Kyle Allen three times in the first meeting between the two teams.

LB Blake Martinez

Blake Martinez has 82 total tackles on the season, tying Dallas' Jaylon Smith for the most in the NFL. The 26-year-old has also recorded 2.0 sacks and is tied for 16th in the league with six tackles for loss. On Monday, Martinez forced a Ronald Jones fumble deep in Buccaneers territory to set up a Dion Lewis touchdown. 

Martinez is seventh among linebackers with a 79.0 overall grade from PFF, while his 87.0 run defense grade ranks as one of the highest in the NFL. Martinez's strong play has helped the Giants keep their last three opponents to an average of 22.0 points per game.

"Pat Graham is one of the best defensive coordinators out there," Martinez said about the defense's recent success following last week's game. "His ability to design a game and understand and adjust throughout the game has been amazing throughout the whole season. And then, all the guys out there on defense, no matter who is out there, works their butt off every single day, understands what we need to do in certain situations. Obviously we're not perfect, but to be able to go out there and do what we did today is something we can build off of."

Martinez had a season-high 14 tackles on 67 defensive snaps in the first game against Washington. Their offense is keyed by the talented running back duo of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. Gibson was held to just 30 yards on nine carries (3.3 avg.) in the first meeting, but McKissic rushed the ball eight times for 41 yards while catching six passes for another 43 yards. Gibson is coming off the strongest game of his rookie campaign in Week 7. He logged 20 carries for 128 yards against the Cowboys, both of which were new highs, while scoring his fourth touchdown of the season. McKissic finished with 51 yards on seven total touches (five rushes, two receptions).

View photos of the Washington Football Team starters ahead of the Week 9 matchup, based on their unofficial depth chart.

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