GETTING THE OFFENSE ON TRACK
The Giants' offense has struggled to get going this season. Heading into this Week 7 matchup, the Giants rank 32nd in points and 31st in yards. Over the last three weeks, the unit has been held out of the end zone with the team's only touchdown coming on Jason Pinnock's 102-yard interception return. During that span, the offense has averaged just seven points per game.
A significant factor in the team's low scoring has been the offense's struggles in the red zone. The Giants were unable to punch it into the end zone on any of their four trips inside the Bills' 20-yard line. That dropped the team's red zone touchdown percentage down to 31.3 percent, which ranks 30th in the league.
The Commanders' defense has given up a touchdown 10 of 21 times (47.6 percent) when the opponent gets the ball inside the 20, good for the 10th best mark in the NFL. From Weeks 2 to 5, Washington gave up an average of 36 points per game to its opponents. The Falcons scored just 16 points last week, but did gain over 400 yards of total offense. It marked the third consecutive week the Commanders allowed an opponent to reach the 400-yards of offense mark.
The New York Giants host the Washington Commanders in MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 22 in an NFC East matchup. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.
The Giants look to pick up their 106th regular-season victory over the Commanders in the 181st regular-season meeting between the teams. The 180 regular-season matchups since 1932 make the Commanders the Giants' most frequent opponent. The Giants lead the all-time series, 105-70-5, and have a record of 56-30-3 at home against Washington.
The Giants have swept the season series vs. Washington 34 times. Last season, the Giants played Washington twice in a three-game span and went 1-0-1. On Dec. 4, the game ended in a 20-20 draw, and on Dec. 18, the Giants defeated the Commanders, 20-12, on the road.
Out: OT Andrew Thomas (hamstring), C John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), OT Matt Peart (shoulder)
Questionable: QB Daniel Jones (neck), CB Adoree' Jackson (neck), OT Evan Neal (ankle)
Quarterback Daniel Jones injured his neck late in the Week 5 loss against the Miami Dolphins. The injury forced him to miss his first game of the season this past Sunday in Buffalo, and his first game missed due to injury since the end of the 2021 campaign. Jones was a limited participant in practice all week, but as of Friday, had not yet been cleared for contact. He is listed as questionable on the final injury report.
"I obviously want to be out there extremely, extremely badly," Jones told the media Wednesday. "I want to be there for the team and be on the field. I certainly feel that way. But doing everything I can to get back out there and everything I can to help."
In Jones' place, Tyrod Taylor started his first game with the Giants. The veteran quarterback completed 66.7 percent of his passes (24 of 36) for 200 yards and added five rush attempts for an additional 24 yards (4.8 avg.). Taylor was sacked just three times against a Bills defense that entered Week 6 leading the NFL with 21 sacks. The 34-year-old would once again start if Jones is unable to go this Sunday.
"Tyrod did a good job," the head coach told the media Monday. "Threw the ball on time, made some good throws down the sideline to (wide receiver Darius) Slayton, got the ball out of his hands even when there was some pressure so did a good job of leading his team. Obviously, the team thing of 0-for-5 in the redzone, that's a team thing, so something we've go to work on but continue to do that, but I thought Tyrod acquitted himself well."
The Commanders' pass defense has struggled this year, as they enter this matchup ranking 27th in passing yards and 30th in touchdowns allowed. After limiting the Cardinals to 114 passing yards in the season opener, the Commanders have allowed an average of 275 passing yards per game over the last five weeks. Washington has also allowed 12 passing touchdowns during that span.
LATEST ON THE O-LINE
No position group has been more in flux this season than the Giants' offensive line. Since the start of Week 1, a total of 12 different offensive linemen have played snaps on offense. The Giants have been without All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) since the season opener. Joshua Ezeudu, who started the last five games in place of Thomas at left tackle, was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a toe injury, while Shane Lemieux was put on IR after tearing his biceps during practice this week.
Thomas, center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) and swing tackle Matt Peart (shoulder) were all ruled out Friday for Week 7. Additionally, right tackle Evan Neal (ankle) is listed as questionable on the final injury report.
Due to the injuries along the line, the Giants made several roster moves this week to bolster the unit, starting with signing Justin Pugh to the active roster. Pugh was signed to the practice squad on October 3, and less than two weeks later, the veteran offensive lineman was elevated to the active roster for Week 6.
After starting the game at left guard, Pugh shifted over to left tackle when Ezeudu got hurt. The 33-year-old went on to play 64 of his 73 snaps at left tackle and allowed just three pressures on 38 pass block snaps. His 7.9 percent pressure rate allowed was the lowest by a Giants' left tackle all season. Pugh aligned most against Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd. While Floyd did pick up a sack just a few plays after the veteran lineman moved to left tackle, Pugh settled in nicely after that. The sack was the only pressure he allowed against Floyd on 14 pass block snaps.
"I thought he did some good things," Daboll said about Pugh. "Again, he hasn't played tackle in a while. We talked about it, like I said before, but we'll give him obviously some reps out there and make sure we get him ready to go…
"He's a pro. He's played a long time, so he does a good job staying in front of the guys, got quick feet. He can get to the second level. He's got a lot of experience. So, as long as they can do their job."
The Giants also signed Tyre Phillips from the Eagles' practice squad and Josh Miles from the Falcons' practice squad on Tuesday. Phillips spent the entire 2022 season with the Giants and played 12 games with five starts, four at right tackle and one at left tackle. He was released from the Giants' practice squad on September 1 and signed with the Eagles three days later. Miles played in a total of 17 games with the Arizona Cardinals between the 2019 and 2021 seasons, and signed to the Falcons' practice squad after training camp.
DEFENSE 'STARTING TO GEL'
After a slow start to the season, the Giants' defense has picked it up over the last few weeks. In two of the last three games, the defense has held the opponent to under 300 total yards of offense. Going up against one of the top offenses in the NFL this past Sunday, the Giants held the Bills to 14 points and 297 yards. While the Giants fell short at the end, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was encouraged with the performance of his defense.
"Obviously, disappointed with the outcome, but I think that our effort and execution, the communication, we did a lot of good things Sunday night against Buffalo and hope to build on that as we keep going forward," said the defensive coordinator. "I like where we are going right now. We've got a great challenge ahead of us with this group from Washington. We'll see what happens, we'll tee it up."
The unit has also done a good job of creating turnovers in recent weeks. After not recording a takeaway in the first four weeks of the season, the defense has multiple turnovers in back-to-back games with five total during that span.
"Bobby, (safety) X(avier McKinney), (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams), (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II), all those guys, they are starting to gel as a unit," said Martindale. "(Outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux), you know you just keep going down the list, they are starting to gel as a unit, and they are getting used to playing together and Bobby is a big part of that, too. I think you are just going to continue to see him keep striding out the way we all expected him too."
"I think a lot of guys on defense just have the same mindset and the want to," Lawrence added. "Our mindset is just to go kick somebody's butt, for real. Just go out there and play faster, harder, longer than the other team plays, and the results will handle themselves, and just keep believing. They make a big play, it's the NFL. It's going to happen. Go to the next one, and we'll make that stop. Get them down so we've got a place to stand."
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 7 matchup against the Washington Commanders.
SAQUON VS. COMMANDERS
Running back Saquon Barkley made his return to action this past Sunday with 93 yards on 24 carries and added four receptions. More important than his stats, the star running back told the media Thursday that he suffered "no setbacks" from the ankle injury that forced him to miss three games. With Barkley back in the lineup, the Giants rushed for 132 yards as a team, their highest rushing total of the season.
This week, Barkley faces off against a familiar foe. In seven career games against Washington, the 26-year-old running back is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 109 rush attempts. His 634 yards and four touchdowns on the ground are both the most he's had against any team in his career. Add in his average of 4.6 receptions for 38.9 yards, and Barkley is averaging nearly 130 total yards from scrimmage against the NFC East opponent. He also holds the franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage in an overtime victory over Washington back in 2019.
The Commanders have a talented defensive front made up of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen on the interior and Montez Sweat and Chase Young on the edges. Despite his success against Washington, Barkley has a ton of respect for their talented defense.
"I always have respect for them," said the running back. "Their defense is amazing. It's always fun playing against them, in a competitive way. I have nothing but respect for the whole defense but especially those four monsters. I just feel like they've been there forever. They've been there as long as I've been there. The only one who hasn't I think is (Commanders Defensive End) Chase (Young) and Chase was there the year after that. So, going against them is fun. They're a fun group to play against, it's always competitive, it's always tough, it's a challenge that as a competitor you love to go against. I look forward to doing that again and hopefully we come out with a win."
JALIN HYATT'S ROLE 'GROWING'
It didn't take long for rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt to showcase his big-play ability. In just his second NFL game, Hyatt had two long receptions to get the Giants' into the opponent's territory, including a 58-yard reception on the first play of the second half which sparked the Giants' comeback against the Cardinals. He finished that game with two receptions for 89 yards.
Hyatt is beginning to see his playing time increase as he gets more accustomed to the speed in the NFL. In Sunday's loss to the Bills, the rookie wideout played a season-high 56 offensive snaps, or 73 percent of the team's offensive plays. He was targeted four times and had three receptions, both of which were the most of his young career, and had a key catch on fourth down to extend the Giants' final drive of the game. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka praised Hyatt's development as he starts to see the field more.
"Jalin's growing," said Kafka. "I think he's learning each and every day, each and every week. You've seen him getting a little bit better and better and better, so that's good. It's a step in the right direction and again, as a young player, it's all about building confidence, so he's going through that right now. I think he's in a good spot mentally, so again just working him and the others throughout the game plan. That's what we're looking to build on."
BOBBY OKEREKE STEPPING UP
Bobby Okereke has been on fire in recent weeks. The veteran linebacker has registered double-digit tackles in each of the last three games while totaling five passes defensed during that span. The 27-year-old had his best game of the season last week as he finished with a game-high and personal season-high 11 tackles (eight solo) to go with two tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Okereke was on the field for 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps and added five defensive stops and one pressure (on just four blitzes), according to Next Gen Stats. His performance earned him a spot on Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week.
Okereke played a crucial role in both of the Giants' turnovers last week, one with a forced fumble which was recovered by Micah McFadden and the other with a pass breakup which landed right in the hands of McFadden for an interception. It was the second consecutive game that Okereke helped force two turnovers. In Week 5 against the Dolphins, the linebacker had an interception and also tipped a ball up to Jason Pinnock, who intercepted the pass and returned it 102 yards for a touchdown. The veteran has now registered 31 total tackles, five passes defensed, a forced fumble and an interception over the last three games. His five pass breakups on the season are tied with the Jets' Quincy Williams for the most among all linebackers.
The Commanders have not had a ton of success on the ground this season. They rank 25th in the league in total rushing yards, but 12th in touchdowns and 13th in yards per carry. Washington has been held under 100 rushing yards in three of their six games. Brian Robinson is the team's leading rusher with 302 yards on 77 carries (3.9 avg.) with three touchdowns. Robinson has also added two touchdowns and 113 yards on just 11 receptions.
DEONTE BANKS' STRONG START
Deonte Banks has quietly put together a strong start to his NFL career. The rookie cornerback has totaled 16 tackles (14 solo), one tackle for loss and four passes defensed through his first six games, but his success goes beyond the box score. In last week's game in Buffalo, Banks was targeted six times in coverage and allowed just two receptions for 12 yards. When lining up against Bills All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Banks did not allow a single reception on four targets.
Next Gen Stats recently highlighted Banks' early success. Heading into Week 7, the 22-year-old is allowing 3.9 yards per target, which according to NGS is the third-lowest in the NFL. Banks has also allowed -3.6 receptions over expected in coverage this season, which is the fewest among all rookie defenders. The rookie played 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps in last week's loss, and has not missed a defensive snap in three of the team's six games.
Banks is faced with another tough matchup this weekend as he is likely to see some snaps against Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The veteran wideout leads Washington with 31 receptions for 342 yards, while Curtis Samuel is not far behind with 27 receptions for 285 yards.
View photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.