Storylines to follow heading into the Giants’ Week 8 game against the Redskins:
1. Major trades underway. Ahead of the Oct. 30 trade deadline, the 1-6 Giants this week dealt starting cornerback Eli Apple to New Orleans in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round draft choice and a seventh-round draft choice in 2020. Apple, the 10th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, joined offensive tackle Ereck Flowers as first-round choices no longer with the team. Flowers was waived on Oct. 9 and now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another deal is reportedly in the works to move another defensive starter in tackle Damon Harrison to the Lions for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
2. Not throwing in the towel. While the front office keeps an eye on the future, the situation at hand for coach Pat Shurmur is getting his team ready for a game on Sunday. In a sport as physical and team-oriented as football, there is no throwing in the towel. “We’re going to put guys in there, and they’re going to play well and we expect them to,” Shurmur said. “So I guess I can understand the questions, but this is the ultimate team game and we need to play better as a team and we’re going to put guys in there and we expect that they’re going to do a good job.”
3. Wrapping up the first half against the NFC East leaders. In their last game before the bye week, the Giants return home to host the Washington Redskins, who lead the division at 4-2. In 2017, the Giants and Redskins split their season series for the third year in a row, with each team winning at home. Big Blue is 6-2 vs. Washington in MetLife Stadium. The Giants will have an extended break as they do not play again until the following Monday night, Nov. 12 at San Francisco.
“It’s not a nine-week tryout,” Shurmur said. “We’ve got nine games left, play them one game at a time. Those are all things for people to talk about. We’re moving forward getting ready to play the Redskins.”
4. “In terms of just an all-around running back, I’d put Saquon right underneath Adrian Peterson.” Those were words from NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who like many draft analysts graded Saquon Barkley the highest running back since Adrian Peterson came out of Oklahoma in 2007. Both will share the field for the first time on Sunday. “Look, I love Ezekiel Elliott, I love Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley – huge grade on those guys,” Jeremiah said in January. “I think this kid can be better.”
Barkley, the second overall pick, is on pace for more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns. Peterson, the seventh pick in his class, leads the NFL in rushing yards (12,714), scrimmage yards per game (107.0) and total touchdowns (107) since he came into the league. Shurmur overlapped with Peterson in Minnesota in 2016, but the three-time rushing champion was limited to three games that season. Peterson then went to New Orleans and Arizona before signing in late August with Washington, where he is currently eighth in the league with 73.0 yards rushing per game.
“Having been with him, he is an explosive, downhill runner,” Shurmur said. “Although I have seen in watching the tape that they’re doing some flat path type stuff where he’s running around the perimeter. So, he’s a violent runner, and there’s a reason he’s probably one of the best of all time. And it looks to me like he’s playing at a high level.”
Meanwhile, Redskins coach Jay Gruden will have to plan for Barkley a week after limiting Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries in the Redskins’ 20-17 victory over the Cowboys. Washington enters with the No. 3 rush defense. Big Blue has already played the top two – New Orleans and Philadelphia.
“Fortunately we’ve played some great backs,” Gruden said. “We’ve played [Alvin] Kamara, we played obviously Elliott -- this guy’s a little bit different. He’s a combination of both those guys. He’s a physical guy, he can run between the tackles and he’s got the speed to get to the outside. He’s a special, special, special player. We’ve been successful so far against the run for the most part against some pretty good backs, but this guy has the jump cut ability, he’s got the power, he’s got the speed, so we really have to be aware of where he is and we’ve got to do a great job of gang tackling and running to the ball.”
5. Giants vs. Alex Smith 3.0. The Redskins will be the third team quarterback Alex Smith has started for against the Giants. He is 2-3 all-time against Big Blue: 1-2 with the 49ers (including the Giants’ 2011 NFC Championship Game victory) and 1-1 with the Chiefs. In their Week 11 meeting last season against Kansas City, Eli Manning went 4-for-5 for 60 yards in overtime, setting up a 23-yard game-winning field goal by Aldrick Rosas. Smith, who started last season 5-0 and lost to Tennessee in the first round of the playoffs, was traded to Washington this offseason as Kansas City handed the reins over to Patrick Mahomes. Washington’s offense ranks in the fourth quartile in yards and points, but Smith has the only four that matters – victories.
“I think they’re running their offense, so he’s running the plays that Jay Gruden has run,” Shurmur said. “He certainly can execute them in a way Kirk Cousins did. He’s a very good quarterback. The thing about him is he’s kind of a gritty, tough guy and so you think you’ve got – in the case of a throw – it defended or maybe you’ve got him hemmed in and he’ll run for yardage. So I’ve always admired his style of play.”
View photos of the unofficial starters for Sunday's game against Washington