EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – To the players who staff the Giants' offensive line, every NFC East game is a grind.
"Dallas has guys that are more laterally quick and smaller," center Jon Feliciano said today. "Then Philly, I think, has bigger dudes, stronger dudes. The Commanders are a mix – (Daron) Payne is big, but he's also pretty quick. (Jonathan) Allen is really, really strong. He has one of the best hump moves in the game. It's deadly."
The Giants will complete a run of four consecutive division games Sunday night in FedExField. It began Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys in Dallas. They came home to face Washington and Philadelphia. And this week they are preparing for a rematch with the Commanders, whom they tied 20-20 just 10 days ago and are deadlocked in the standings with matching 7-5-1 records.
The offensive linemen understand both the importance of the game and the challenge they face. In the first Washington game, they lined up against three defensive linemen selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in Allen (the 17th overall choice in 2017), Payne (the 13th pick in 2018) and Montez Sweat (selected 26th in 2019). The Commanders are expected to welcome back a fourth high draft choice, 2020 No. 2 overall selection Chase Young, who has not played since tearing his ACL on Nov. 14, 2021.
"Those two D-tackles – especially Allen – I think he's one of the better defensive tackles in the league," offensive lineman Nick Gates said. "And especially what he does, there's not many other defensive tackles that can play in that body. They're big, strong guys. The big thing is trying to keep them away from your body and move your feet on them. You don't want them to get coasting."
"Allen is one of the premier tackles in the league, one hundred percent," Feliciano said. "He kind of gets, I don't want to say 'lost in the sauce' there. They have a lot of first round guys. With Chase Young coming back, he gets a lot of attention. But Jon Allen is definitely a really, really good player."
How does Young's expected presence change the calculus up front?
"Just adds another good player," coach Brian Daboll said. "You have to have a plan for that front anyways without him. If he comes back, sounds like he will, we'll have to deal with him accordingly."
Without Young, Washington's defense gave the Giants fits in the team's first meeting. The Giants gained 316 yards on 14 offensive possessions. They scored two touchdowns and kicked two field goals in four consecutive series spanning the second and third quarters. But they also punted seven times, lost a fumble, took a knee at the end of the fourth quarter and missed a long field goal attempt on the game's final play.
The Giants' time of possession of 28:49 was more than 12 minutes less than Washington's. Saquon Barkley rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Daniel Jones was the Giants' leading rusher with 71 yards.
"There's things that they do that definitely create problems," right guard Mark Glowinski said. "But it will always be us controlling our techniques, making sure we're putting ourselves in places to succeed, making sure that we're (executing) proper assignments and things like that. There are things that pop up throughout the game. It's just us making sure that we're putting ourselves in the right position and place, making sure that we're all on the same page, communications, fundamentals, just knowing where we're going.
"At the end of the day, if an offense is not executing or doing the things it's supposed to do, it'll be an easy assignment for them. So, I think it's just making sure we're doing all those things we're asked to do within the game: technique at a high level, proper hand placements, head placements, knowing our assignment, knowing patterns, watching film."
Washington's D-linemen are certainly well-known to the Giants. They frequently see them on tape, and they just played them the game before last. The Commanders had a bye last week, so they will face the Giants in two consecutive games.
Are there advantages to playing a team twice in a such a short time span?
"Just remembering who the guys are," Gates said. "We're division guys, so you know who they are already. But playing them back-to-back, you kind of remember the game plan you had before. There's a couple tweaks here and there, but it's nice knowing what the guy does and what moves he has."
"We know Allen is going to throw a hump move," Feliciano said. "We know Payne's going to try to hit a wiggle and try to beat you to the edge. I don't think there's a duo of D-tackles that play as much as they do. They're in like the 80-something percentile of being in. So, in most cases, even in just that first game alone, we played them so many times. In each rep, you get a feel for the guy. Likewise, for them, they get a feel for us. It's always fun and more challenging, which is fun for me, to play a team so close together."
*Gates will return to FedExField 15 months and one day after suffering the catastrophic injury to his lower left leg that sidelined him for more than a year. Does he anticipate having flashbacks?
"No, not at all," he said. "That stuff is over and done and with. After that Seattle game (when he returned on Oct. 30), I kind of tried to put it to the side. It's football now; I proved that I can play now. Onto the next."
*The Giants' four remaining opponents – Washington, Minnesota, Indianapolis and Philadelphia - have a combined winning percentage of .654, easily the highest among teams currently in playoff position. Cincinnati and New England are tied for second at .615.
*The Giants are one of six teams currently in playoff position who play at least three of their last four games against teams that are also currently in playoff position, joining NFC East rivals Washington and Dallas, plus Cincinnati, Buffalo and New England. The Giants are the only one of those six teams with all three such matchups on the road.
*The Giants are one of five teams that play three of their final four games on the road, joining Dallas, Detroit, Arizona and the L.A. Rams.
*Two players in the NFL concussion protocol, wide receiver Richie James and linebacker Jihad Ward, were among the seven Giants who did not practice today. They were joined by cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) and offensive linemen Joshua Ezeudu (neck) and Shane Lemieux (toe).
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and safety Julian Love were given rest days for the second Wednesday in a row.
Four players were limited: tight end Daniel Bellinger (ribs), DL Leonard Williams (neck), linebacker Elerson Smith (Achilles) and cornerback Nick McCloud (illness).
Linebacker Micah McFadden (neck, ankle) practiced fully.
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Commanders.