EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants got a taste of life in the modern NFL in their first two games, when Dallas and Atlanta combined for 702 passing yards and 136 yards on the ground. The Cowboys and Falcons dropped back to pass 93 times, and had just 45 rushing attempts.
Those ratios are a bit extreme, but hardly shocking in a pass-happy league that has become a weekly aerial show.
But Thursday night, the Giants' defense will be forced to go old school. Their opponent will be the Washington Redskins, currently the NFL's foremost practitioners of the run game. The Giants linemen, linebackers and defensive backs must dig in their heels and stand up to a team that leads the NFL through two weeks with 343 rushing yards, or 171.5 a game.
"It's a defensive game," linebacker J.T. Thomas said. "It's important for us to be able to come out and stop the run - that's obvious. I think people understand the task that we're up against. We have to stop the run against one of the best running football teams in the NFL."
"It's definitely going to be physical," defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. "Washington, they're big on the zone read. Anytime you play against those schemes, you have to be a lot more disciplined, so it's a lot more mental. So I feel mentally and technique-wise, you've got to be on top of your game. We're definitely up for the challenge. We've been working at run defense, that's been a priority all camp in the offseason. We feel like we can play the run well, and no better test than to go against the number one rushing team."
The Giants played the run well in their first two outings, giving up an average of 68.0 yards on the ground. But that number is almost certainly due in part to the success Dallas and Atlanta had passing the ball. Quarterbacks Tony Romo and Matt Ryan threw for 356 and 363 yards, respectively, so the Cowboys and Falcons were content to move the ball through the air.
Washington prefers to do it on the ground. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is less experienced than Romo or Ryan, and Redskins coach Jay Gruden wants to alleviate the pressure on Cousins by having him hand off instead of throw the football. And in four-year veteran Alfred Morris (who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons) and rookie Matt Jones, they have a pair of accomplished runners.
Morris and Jones have combined for 68 carries, 331 yards and two touchdowns. The veteran leads the way with 180 rushing yards, while the rookie has averaged 6.0 yards a carry and accounted for both scores.
"They're both powerful runners, and they can make certain cuts and get downhill," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "They're downhill-type runners, and they're behind a good offensive line. We've just got to make sure we fit things right and we're physical."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face Washington
"They're one-cut runners," rookie safety Landon Collins said. "I picked that up kind of quick. They're going to hit the hole hard, and they're going to try and make something happen after that. That's their style of game."
If the Redskins stick to their script, this game will be fought in the trenches and decided near the line of scrimmage. And that's exactly how the Giants defensive players want it.
"I definitely don't have a problem with being physical and playing in a physical game," Kennard said. "This will be exciting for us. It's definitely going to be a physical game. I think it comes down to the front, our defensive line, and then the linebackers and even when we have safeties and DB's in some of our fits. It's going to take everybody with some of the things that they do. It's going to be a physical battle."
"I consider myself more of a throwback guy," Thomas said. "We definitely like these kind of ball games where it's not so much trick 'em or run them around the field. We understand what they want to do, and it's up to us to stop the vertical, downhill plays. They have good backs and a great offensive line, so I think that we're going to have to do a good job of keying on our fundaments and being physical."
- Although Thursday night games can be taxing physically for the players, most Giants are pleased they have a short work week after the second disheartening loss in as many weeks.>> GIANTS WEEK 3 INJURY REPORT
"A good thing about a short week is you don't have a whole lot of time to reflect on the past," quarterback Eli Manning said. "You just get back out there, start preparing and go out there and see if we can put four quarters together and play a complete game and win."
"It's definitely good to hurry up and get another shot," Jenkins said. "It's real frustrating. You want to win every game. To have the chance and be up and just not be able to finish it off, that's the most difficult part of it. You have to move on fast, because you have to gear up for the new game. At the same time, you still feel it. We're a 0-2 right now, and that's the facts. We've got to get a win, so we can get one in the win column."
- The Giants' injury report includes five players who will not suit up for the Washington game: wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (concussion), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee), tight end Jerome Cunningham (knee) and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (foot).
This will be Rodgers-Cromartie's first missed game in his two-plus seasons with the Giants. He has played in all 18 games with 17 starts…Cruz, who hopes to return for the Giants' next game on Oct. 4 in Buffalo, will miss his 14th consecutive game dating back to last season.
Rookie tackle Ereck Flowers, the team's first-round draft choice this season, is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Defensive end Robert Ayers is questionable after practicing on a limited basis with a hamstring strain.
Five players are probable: linebacker Jon Beason (knee), who will make his season debut; defensive tackle Jay Bromley (knee); tight end Daniel Fells (foot); defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins (hamstring); and guard Geoff Schwartz (illness). Bromley was limited in practice, the other players practiced fully.
Playmakers on Washington's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike