The Giants will continue their pursuit of the NFC East title when they host the Washington Redskins Sunday in MetLife Stadium. A victory in Dallas last Sunday improved the Giants' record to 7-6 and left them tied atop the division with the Cowboys. Washington lost to New England, 34-27, the Redskins' eighth loss in nine games, to fall to 4-9. Washington is 2-4 on the road and has an NFL-worst minus-14 turnover differential. In the season opener in Washington on Sept. 11, the Giants did not score in the second half and lost, 28-14. They lead the regular season series, 91-62-4.
The Redskins are ranked 17th in the NFL in offense with an average of 331.8 yards a game (but they gained a season-high 463 yards last week against the Patriots). They are 31st in rushing (93.8 yards a game) and 12th in passing yardage (237.9). Washington is 27th in the NFL in scoring with an average of 17.6 points per game. The Redskins are 4-1 when they have a time of possession advantage (the only loss was to the Patriots) and 0-8 when they don't.
Washington has been a pass-first team most of the season; the Redskins have thrown 481 passes, the NFL's fourth-highest total. The offense has turned the ball over at least once in 27 consecutive games. The unit has been hit hard by injuries with running back Tim Hightower, tight end Chris Cooley and guard Kory Lichtensteiger all on injured reserve and tight end Fred Davis (who caught five passes for 105 yards in the first meeting with the Giants) and left tackle Trent Williams done of the season after receiving four-game suspensions for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Quarterback Rex Grossman is 4-6 as a starter this season (John Beck is 0-3). Grossman did not throw an interception in the season-opening victory over the Giants but has since been picked off at least once in his last nine starts. He is a smart, tough, experienced quarterback who has played better as the Redskins' ground game has improved in recent weeks. Washington has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions this season. Beck's passer rating of 72.1 is almost identical to Grossman's 71.8. Beck is more athletic than Grossman and he has the arm strength to throw an accurate deep ball.
Running back Roy Helu, a fourth-round draft choice from Nebraska, started and rushed for 108, 100 and 126 yards the last three weeks to become the first rookie in Redskins history with three consecutive 100-yard games. He leads the NFC with 73 rushes for 334 yards in that span and the team with 582 yards overall. Helu took over for Ryan Torain, who was ineffective after Hightower went on I.R. The rookie is seldom off the field. He is a speedy downhill runner with good balance and cutting ability and the strength to run through arm tackles. Helu also leads all rookie running backs with 44 receptions. Torain was a healthy inactive last week. Evan Royster, another rookie signed off the practice squad, was the No. 2 back. He is a fast back who rushed for 44 yards on six carries vs. New England.
Fullback Darrel Young missed the Jets game two weeks ago with a concussion, but returned to face New England. He has eight receptions this season. Backup Mike Sellers, a 12-year veteran, hyperextended his right elbow vs. the Patriots.
Wide receiver Santana Moss missed four games this season with a broken hand but remains Grossman's favorite target. Moss can separate from defensive backs and he is a deep threat with dependable hands. Jabar Gaffney is a chain-mover – 38 of his 52 receptions have produced first downs, and he has a team-high four touchdown catches. Gaffney is a smart, savvy receiver with good coverage awareness and steady production. Donte Stallworth was waived on Nov. 8 and re-signed a week later. He commands respect because of his speed and experience. Stallworth is particularly productive on intermediate routes. David Anderson, who was in training camp with Denver, signed with the Redskins on Nov. 8 and has six receptions. He is a good underneath target. Anthony Armstrong, who has hurt the Giants with big plays in the past, dropped some passes and has since had his playing time reduced. When given a chance, he has the speed to stretch the field. Brandon Banks is the Redskins' return specialist, but last week he lined up at wide receiver – and *threw *a 49-yard touchdown pass to Moss.
The Redskins are hurting at tight end, where Cooley, a two-time Pro Bowler, and Davis, who leads the team with 52 receptions, will not play again this season. The new starter is Logan Paulsen, who is more of a blocking tight end, as his seven receptions in 13 games indicate. He is competitive at the point of attack and has the strength to push defenders back. The backup is Dominique Byrd, whom the Skins signed for the second time last week and who played his first game vs. New England.
Washington has started seven different offensive line combinations this season and is expected to line up with two rookies on the left side on Sunday. Because it is a relatively smallish line, the Redskins are a zone stretch team that tries to beat opponents at the point of attack.
Sean Locklear started at left tackle last week for Williams and alternated by series with undrafted rookie Willie Smith, who remained in the game after the fourth offensive possession and will presumably stay there against the Giants. Smith was inactive nine of the first 12 games, but he has good size, strength and body range. Locklear is a solid backup. Left guard Maurice Hurt was a seventh-round draft choice this year. He is a tough, competitive player who is strong on contact and works to the whistle. Will Montgomery hasn't missed a snap this season while starting 11 games at center and two at left guard. He has good natural leverage. Chris Chester, who has good foot speed, has been equally durable at right guard. Tackle Jammal Brown has missed two games, including last week's, and didn't practice Wednesday because of a groin injury. If he can't play, Tyler Polumbus, who was with Seattle early in the season and was signed off the street on Nov. 9, will make his second start. Erik Cook is the backup at all three interior line positions.
DefenseThe Redskins are ranked 10th in the NFL in defense, allowing an average of 333.4 yards a game. They are 17th vs. the run (113.6) and 13th against the pass (219.8). Washington is 19th in scoring defense, giving up 22.3 points per game. The Redskins have had the same starter in every game at eight of the 11 defensive positions this season, the exceptions being one of the inside linebackers and both safeties. The fine play of the defense has kept them close in several games.
This is a pressure team that really gets after opposing quarterbacks. The Redskins attack with blitzes and mix in some zone blitzes. Washington is one of four teams that have four different players with at least 5.0 sacks apiece (Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker). Until Tom Brady threw for 357 yards last week, the Redskins had not allowed a 300-yard passer all season.
Former Giant Barry Cofield is having a productive first season with the Redskins. Playing a new position – a 3-4 nose tackle – Cofield has been smart, tough and quick. He has 2.5 sacks and has knocked down nine passes. Carriker has been a steady, reliable player at one end. Because he lacks great foot speed, the key for him is early success at the line of scrimmage. Bowen is a violent football player who is in all the defensive packages and has been Washington's most dangerous interior pass rusher. Rookie Chris Neild is a backup nose with a high running motor, though he gets limited snaps. Darrion Scott was inactive for the first eight games, was released on Nov. 8 and brought back a week later. He has since been a tough, competitive reserve.
Washington employs an excellent pair of outside linebackers in rookie Ryan Kerrigan (team-leading 6.5 sacks) and third-year pro Brian Orakpo (6.0). Kerrigan intercepted an Eli Manning pass and returned it nine yards for a touchdown in the opener. He plays with an attacking style on every snap against the run or the pass. Orakpo was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. He is a violent player who is powerful on contact and has impressive speed. Rob Jackson gets snaps in the sub defenses.
On the inside, London Fletcher has played in 221 consecutive games and started 176 in a row and remains one of the NFL's foremost tackling machines. The Redskins have credited him with 167 tackles this season (100 solo). A 14-year veteran, Fletcher is seldom fooled. Second-year pro Perry Riley replaced Rocky McIntosh as the starter at the other inside position on Nov. 13 in Miami. Riley is an attacking backer with 47 tackles in the last five games.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is a smooth athlete who can play in any coverage. He is second on the team with 99 tackles and is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Josh Wilson has been a steady performer while starting every game at right corner. Kevin Barnes is a handyman in the secondary; he is the nickel back and can help out at safety. Byron Westbrook also contributes. Reed Doughty has started at both safety positions. He is an aggressive player and productive tackler who is best near the line of scrimmage. Oshiomogho Atogwe is normally the free safety, but DeJon Gomes started last week. LeRon Landry has started eight games despite some injuries and is an exceptional run defender. He is a difference maker when he plays.
Special TeamsThe Redskins have outstanding coverage teams. They have held their opponents to an NFL-low 19.9-yard average on kickoff returns. They are seventh in covering punts, allowing an average runback of 7.4 yards. Brandon Banks is averaging 22.7 yards on 45 kickoff returns and 10.6 yards on 30 punt returns. Sav Rocca has placed 26 punts inside the 20, which is tied for the NFC lead and tied for second in the league. He has a 40.0-yard net average, which places him eighth in the NFL. Graham Gano has made 23 of 32 field goal attempts, including three of five from 50 yards and out.
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