Head coach Tom Coughlin is one of several Giants who said this week that Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has improved since the teams met six weeks ago.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell isn't certain that's true.
"He was so impressive against us, I don't know if he can play any better than that," Fewell said today.
Griffin was outstanding when the teams faced each other in MetLife Stadium on October 21. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards, two touchdown and interception and had a passer rating of 108.9. Griffin rushed for 89 yards on just nine carries and helped the Redskins gain 480 yards. He converted a fourth-and-10 with two minutes remaining that led to Washington's go-ahead touchdown. The Giants pulled out a victory when Eli Manning threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 remaining.
But in defeat, Griffin had given the Giants a taste of his extraordinary skills.
"He's a very impressive young man," Fewell said. "I'm totally in awe in the amount of offense they give him and what he can execute and how he executes that to perfection."
"We already knew going in what type of talent he was, what type of quarterback he was," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "But he just demonstrated that further for us and he proved it in real time the type of athlete and more importantly the type of quarterback that he is. He's an outstanding quarterback, first, and so we've got our work cut out for us. He did a lot of good things against us and hopefully we'll be able to rectify that when we play them on Monday."
That's when the Giants will get their second crack at RG3. The teams will meet in FedEx Field with the 7-4 Giants hoping to move closer to the NFC East title and the 5-6 Redskins trying to get to .500 and become serious players in the NFC postseason race.
Job one for the Giants' defense will be trying to contain Griffin, who has had an extraordinary rookie season. His passer rating of 104.6 is the NFL's fourth-best. Griffin's average gain per attempt of 8.21 yards is second. He threw four touchdown passes in each of the last two games, victories over division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. Griffin is also Washington's second-leading rusher with 642 yards, 64 shy of the NFL rookie record for quarterbacks set last year by Carolina's Cam Newton. He has run for six touchdowns.
"However fast you think he looks on tape, he's much faster than that," said defensive tackle Chris Canty.
Perhaps most impressively, Griffin has completed 67.5 percent of his passes. Consider that Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, the other brilliant quarterback in this year's rookie class, has a completion percentage of 56.8.
"He can run throw accurately on the run as well as any quarterback I've faced in the 15 years that I've been in the league," Fewell said. "You're talking about a guy that can move right or left and keep his eyes down the field. And normally a player like that would utilize his skills to scramble. But he looks for a receiver and he can throw it on a dime and pinpoint a receiver. That is very impressive. Those are the hardest guys to play, because they can do so much. It's a 50-50 proposition. If he takes off – wow. And if he throws it, he throws it accurately. That's what's so impressive. Normally those kinds of guys don't throw the ball that accurately. He lasers that ball in there. That's what's very impressive about the young man."
"He's a very good quarterback and he does it all run and pass," safety Antrel Rolle said. "His play fake is awesome and just the scheme that he's in, I think it definitely fits his style of quarterback and it creates a lot of problems for a defense."
The play everyone is still talking about was the conversion he orchestrated on fourth-and-10 from the Redskins' 23-yard line. Griffin took a shotgun snap, saw no one open, rolled to his left and eluded Jason Pierre-Paul and a couple other defenders before rifling a pass to tight end Logan Paulson for a 19-yard gain. Three players later, he threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to give the Redskins their final lead.
"That's a really fine football player making a football play," Fewell said. "You would like to think that he spent enough time scrambling and looking that we would be able to corral him and put him on the ground or throw an errant pass. We've looked at that play probably a dozen times. You say you plaster your receivers more, and that's a point of emphasis, but then if you plaster your receivers more, he takes off and runs. You have to have vision on the quarterback. I think that's the dual-threat that he brings to the National Football League; that you can cover every receiver and have them locked down, and then he can go from 0 to 60 like that and get the first down."
"I think the one thing about RG3 is how poised he is in a situation like that," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He stayed back there and kind of kept his eyes down field and found a wide-open tight end after eluding myself, JPP and our whole D-line it seemed like. I think it talks to how in the moment he is and how poised he is in those moments, which is rare for a rookie quarterback."
On Monday, the Giants will get their second look at a player who could be a twice-a year nemesis for the next decade – or more.
"He's getting better, no question," Coughlin said. "He's got the numbers to prove it. He's done extremely well with the passing game, the play-action passes. What you notice is the effectiveness with the completion percentage and the yardage that's attained. It may not be as many throws, but it's more productive."
So how do the Giants stop Robert Griffin III?
"We've worked hard at that," Coughlin said. "It's not an easy chore. He's throwing the ball, he's very accurate with that. Just like all people with that kind of ability, you do have to constantly be reminded of your containment responsibilities and in this case, because of the option, you obviously have that involved, too."
"You have to be very disciplined, very sound and even while doing that you still have to understand that they're going to get some plays," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You just have to make sure you limit the plays that he's been making."
The Giants discovered in October that is easier said than done.
*Pierre-Paul did not practice today because of a back issue. Coughlin said he expect the Pro Bowler to play Monday night.
*Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and tackle David Diehl (shoulder) also missed practice.
Five players were limited: center David Baas (shoulder), wide receiver Domenik Hixon (ankle), cornerback Jayron Hosley (shoulder), safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee).
*In his 17 years as an NFL head coach, Coughlin is 11-6 against rookie quarterbacks, including 5-2 with Eli Manning as his starter.
*The Giants have won five of their last six games in Washington and are 8-6-1 in FedEx Field.