The Giants play the Washington Commanders for the second time in three weeks on Sunday night in Maryland. The Commanders had a bye last week so nothing much has changed for them since the teams played last. Please check out my game preview from that game for some statistical details on the Commanders because in this week's edition we'll focus on personnel changes for Washington, different players on both sides of the ball and any significant takeaways from the Dec. 4 game on December 4th.
When the Commanders have the ball…
* Center Ted Larsen was placed on injured reserve. This means either veteran Nick Martin will get the start at center, or Wes Schweitzer, who is traditionally a guard. Schweitzer has played 166 snaps at center in his career. Martin has over 4,000 snaps at center in his six-year career.
* Starting right guard Trai Turner may be back for the Commanders this week after missing the game against the Giants with knee and ankle injuries. Turner was limited in practice on Wednesday with a knee injury.
* Sam Cosmi started at right guard in the matchup two weeks ago, but left the game with an ankle injury. Cosmi practiced in full on Wednesday so he should be back in the lineup, whether at right guard or back in his rotation at right tackle with Cornelius Lucas.
* Carson Wentz was activated off injured reserve and will serve as the team's backup to Taylor Heinicke.
Players to watch
Commanders' star players (Terry McLaurin, Taylor Heinicke, Brian Robinson) were in the last preview, so here are some others:
Jahan Dotson: Dotson caught five passes for 54 yards against the Giants in their first matchup, including the game-tying 28 yard touchdown reception, when he broke two tackles on the way to the end zone. The rookie first-round pick has excellent hands and the quickness and speed to separate from defensive backs
Curtis Samuel: Samuel had six catches for 63 yards on seven targets against the Giants. Samuel's 25-yard catch on a 4th-and-4 on the game-tying drive was one of the biggest plays in the game. With Darnay Holmes back from his shoulder injury, they will likely match up in the slot for most of the game. He is explosive after the catch and is a very good athlete with big play potential.
Antonio Gibson: Fellow running back Brian Robinson did most of the damage against the Giants on the ground in their last matchup, but Gibson is still a dual threat who can challenge on the edges. He rushed for 39 yards on just nine carries and caught two passes for twenty yards on Dec. 4. Gibson was limited in Wednesday's practice with a foot injury but is expected to play.
Charles Leno vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari– Thibodeaux had the second sack of his career against Washington two weeks ago, and Azeez Ojulari finished with two sacks in limited snaps. None of those sacks, however, came on plays where Leno was beaten one-on-one (there was an unblocked sack from his end of the line). Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale did a great job confusing the Washington protections with his pre-snap formations and generating one on one against tight ends and free runners.
Keys for the Giants' defense
These are unchanged from two weeks ago:
* Stop the run on early downs
* Force Taylor Heinicke into mistakes by making him play from behind (score and down/distance) by pressuring him into mistakes. His balls tend to float and defensive backs should have opportunities for interceptions if they anticipate his throws well enough.
* Don't let Terry McLaurin wreck the game with big plays down the field
View photos from the Giants' Week 13 game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium.
When the Giants have the ball…
* There's a very good chance defensive end Chase Young will be back from injury and on the field for the first time since tearing his ACL last season. His snap count will most likely be limited but it will give the Commanders another edge rusher to complement Montez Sweat and their disruptive pair of defensive tackles. When healthy, Young primarily lined up over opposing left tackles, though that's been Sweat's primary spot this season. Young was limited in Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. Sweat was limited in Wednesday's practice with a concussion.
* The Giants attacked rookie cornerback Christian Holmes and fellow cornerback Danny Johnson in their prior matchup, but they might not have that opportunity this week if Benjamin St. Juste is able to return from his ankle injury. He is a good coverage player and would help the Commanders' secondary immensely if he returns and plays at his normal level. St. Juste was limited in Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury.
Players to watch
Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Darrick Forest were in the last preview, so we'll take a look at a couple of others here:
Jamin Davis: Davis leads Washington with 78 tackles. He also has three sacks, seven tackles for loss, a pass defended and five quarterback hits. He is an active and athletic player, but can be caught out of position on run plays that could lead to big plays for Saquon Barkley.
Kamren Curl: Curl does not have an interception or a pass defended this season, but he is the second leading tackler for the Commanders with 77. He has six tackles for loss, one sack, and plays closer to the line of scrimmage on single-high safety looks.
Kendall Fuller vs. Darius Slayton: Fuller is Washington's top cornerback. He has two interceptions, one of which he returned 37 yards for a touchdown, and leads the defense with 11 passes defended. He plays on both sides of the formation but it mostly on the right side of the field. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants only completed two passes for nine yards against him on Dec. 4. Slayton remains the Giants' top weapon and big-play threat, which means he will probably see Fuller often on Sunday night.
Keys for the Giants' offense
These also remain unchanged from the prior game:
* Throw and run successfully on first down to avoid third-down situations
* Control the depth of the pocket against the Commanders' interior pass rush
* Do not become a one-dimensional passing team that requires straight dropbacks and long developing plays.