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Players to Watch in Giants vs. Commanders


The Giants will look to snap their losing streak this Sunday when they welcome the Commanders to MetLife Stadium for an NFC East matchup.

Despite a strong effort against one of the top teams in the league, the Giants fell to the Bills, 14-9, last Sunday night. The game came down to the final play on the one-yard line, but Tyrod Taylor and Darren Waller were unable to connect for the game-winning touchdown. The loss dropped the Giants to 1-5.

The Commanders went into Week 6 having lost three consecutive games themselves, but were able to break the streak with a 24-16 win over the Falcons. Washington was held to under 200 yards of offense but benefited from three turnovers forced by the defense.

Sunday's outing will be the second NFC East matchup for both teams.

Here are five players to watch in Week 7.

RB Saquon Barkley

In his return to action after missing the previous three games due to an ankle injury, Barkley's presence was immediately felt. With the starting running back in the lineup, the Giants rushed for a season-high 132 yards, with 93 of them coming from Barkley. It was Barkley's highest rushing total since Week 10 of last season, when he ran for 152 yards on a career-high 35 carries against the Houston Texans. The 26-year-old back also caught four passes in his return.

Barkley has enjoyed more success against Washington throughout his career than any other opponent. In seven games, he is averaging 90.6 rushing yards and 38.9 receiving yards, along with an impressive 5.8 yards per carry and 4.6 receptions per game. His four rushing touchdowns and five total touchdowns are the most he's scored against any team. Barkley holds the franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage in an overtime victory over Washington back in 2019.

The Commanders enter this matchup ranking 23rd in rushing yards allowed on the year, while their 4.6 yards per attempt given up is 26th. However, Washington has done well in keeping opposing running backs out of the end zone as the unit has surrendered just four rushing touchdowns. Opponents have rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Commanders' last five games, including two outings with more than 165 yards on the ground.

Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s for the 2023 season as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.

WR Darius Slayton

Slayton is coming off his best game of the season. Facing a tough Bills defense, the fifth-year receiver reeled in a season-high four passes for 69 yards. Slayton had two of the team's most explosive plays with receptions of 27 yards and 31 yards, both of which brought the Giants deep into Buffalo territory. He was also on the field for 67 offensive snaps, the most he's played all season.

In last year's matchup against the Commanders at MetLife Stadium, Slayton pulled in six passes for 90 yards. Similar to Barkley, the wide receiver has scored more touchdowns against Washington (three) than any other team, while his 21 career receptions against them is the second-most he's had against a team.

Washington's pass defense has struggled this season, especially over the last five weeks. On the season, the Commanders rank 27th in passing yards and 30th in passing touchdowns allowed. But in the last five games, the defense is allowing an average of 275 passing yards per game. Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns against the Commanders last week, although he did throw three interceptions.

OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux

The second-year outside linebacker registered at least one sack in Weeks 3 to 5, with four sacks total during that span. After recording a 4.1 percent pressure rate in the first three weeks, Thibodeaux has generated a 12.7 percent pressure rate in the last three games.

In two games against the Commanders last season, Thibodeaux totaled two sacks and 17 tackles. But it was his Week 15 performance in Washington that really stood out. The 22-year-old was downright dominant in that Sunday Night Football matchup as he totaled 12 tackles (nine solo), three tackles for loss, and a strip-sack that he recovered for a touchdown, which helped the Giants win their first game in five weeks.

Through the first six weeks of the season, the Commanders have allowed a league-high 34 sacks of quarterback Sam Howell, with at least four sacks surrendered in every game. Howell has been sacked five times in each of the last three games, and Washington's 215 sack yards on the season is 39 yards more than any other team.

ILB Bobby Okereke

Okereke has been on fire in recent weeks. The veteran linebacker has registered double-digit tackles in each of the last three games while totaling five passes defensed during that span. The 27-year-old had his best game of the season last week as he finished with a game-high and personal season-high 11 tackles (eight solo) to go with two tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Okereke was on the field for 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps and added five defensive stops and one pressure (on just four blitzes), according to Next Gen Stats. His performance earned him a spot on Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week.

Okereke played a crucial role in both of the Giants' turnovers last week, one with a forced fumble which was recovered by Micah McFadden and the other with a pass breakup which landed right in the hands of McFadden for an interception. It was the second consecutive game that Okereke helped force two turnovers. In Week 5 against the Dolphins, the linebacker had an interception and also tipped a ball up to Jason Pinnock, who intercepted the pass and returned it 102 yards for a touchdown. The veteran has now registered 31 total tackles, five passes defensed, a forced fumble and an interception over the last three games. His five pass breakups on the season are tied with the Jets' Quincy Williams for the most among all linebackers.

The Commanders have not had a ton of success on the ground this season. They rank 25th in the league in total rushing yards, but 12th in touchdowns and 13th in yards per carry. Washington has been held under 100 rushing yards in three of their six games. Brian Robinson is the team's leading rusher with 302 yards on 77 carries (3.9 avg.) with three touchdowns. Robinson has also added two touchdowns and 113 yards on just 11 receptions.

CB Deonte Banks

Banks has quietly put together a strong start to his NFL career. The rookie cornerback has totaled 16 tackles (14 solo), one tackle for loss and four passes defensed through his first six games, but his success goes beyond the box score. In last week's game in Buffalo, Banks was targeted six times in coverage and allowed just two receptions for 12 yards. When lining up against Bills All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Banks did not allow a single reception on four targets.

Next Gen Stats recently highlighted Banks' early success. Heading into Week 7, the 22-year-old is allowing 3.9 yards per target, which according to NGS is the third-lowest in the NFL. Banks has also allowed -3.6 receptions over expected in coverage this season, which is the fewest among all rookie defenders. The rookie played 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps in last week's loss, and has not missed a defensive snap in three of the team's six games.

Banks is faced with another tough matchup this weekend as he is likely to see some snaps against Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The veteran wideout leads Washington with 31 receptions for 342 yards, while Curtis Samuel is not far behind with 27 receptions for 285 yards.

View photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.