The Giants and Washington Redskins will renew one of the NFL's most storied rivalries when they meet Thursday night in MetLife Stadium. A loss last Sunday to Atlanta dropped the Giants to 0-2, while Washington defeated St. Louis to improve to 1-1. The Giants have won four in a row and five of their last six games vs. the Redskins, and lead the regular-season series, 96-64-4. They are 4-1 vs. Washington in MetLife. This is the Redskins' first road game; they were 1-7 away from home last season, including a 24-13 loss here.
After two weeks, Washington is ranked 11th in the NFL in yards per game (361.0), but tied for 28th in points (34). The Redskins are first in the league with 171.5 rushing yards a game, and second with an average time of possession of 37:49. Their 189.5 passing yards a game places them 28th in the NFL.
That is not totally unexpected, given that Washington's preseason was marked by an ongoing quarterback controversy, plus season-ending injuries to tight ends Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen. Coach Jay Gruden selected Kirk Cousins as his starting quarterback over former No. 1 draft choice Robert Griffin III, who has been inactive as the third quarterback. Cousins has completed 44 of 58 passes (75.9 percent) for 399 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He is a good ball-handler who effectively uses play action. The top reserve is Colt McCoy, who has 21 career starts.
Gruden is using the run game to take the pressure off Cousins. Alfred Morris has started every game of his career and has three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He has rushed for 180 yards in two games, is a powerful first and second down back with outstanding vision, patience, balance, and run skills. He can go a long way on stretch plays. Rookie Matt Jones has teamed with Morris to give Washington an effective 1-2 punch. They combined for 331 rushing yards in the first two games. Jones is an ascending back who has averaged 6.0 yards on his 25 carries, and is both powerful and nifty with big play ability. Chris Thompson strings together moves as a change-of-pace third-down back. Quick and shifty, he has a knack for breaking tackles. Fullback Darrel Young can buckle linebackers as a blocker, and has good receiving skills in short yardage and goal line situations.
DeSean Jackson, Washington's most explosive receiver, pulled a hamstring in the season-opening loss to Miami and will miss the Giants game. While he's sidelined, the top wideout is Pierre Garcon, who went from an NFL-leading 113 receptions in 2013 to 68 last year. He has foot quickness, vertical speed and dependable receiving skills. But he is averaging just 8.1 yards on 12 catches. Ryan Grant is starting for Jackson. He has displayed very good positional feel and intermediate receiving skills. The slot receiver is Andre Roberts, who has quickness, body control and the speed to get down the seam with an ability to separate. Fourth-round draft choice Jamison Crowder has good short area quickness and run after the catch ability. Rashad Ross has a rapid release and is the fastest member of the wide receiver group with Jackson sidelined.
>> DEFENSE PLANS FOR WASHINGTON GROUND ATTACK
Third-year tight end Jordan Reed is being counted on more with Jackson out, and leads the team with 13 receptions for 145 yards. He has excellent speed and hands, plus the ability to adjust to the ball. Derek Carrier, who was acquired in a trade with San Francisco, is a tough, scrappy blocker who gives his all at the point of attack. Anthony McCoy is a big tight end with a quick release and straight line speed.
Left tackle Trent Williams is a three-time Pro Bowler who has good athletic ability, foot speed and flexibility. Next to him, guard Shawn Lauvao has a strong upper body, power and heavy hands. Center Kory Lichtensteiger has good football intelligence and toughness, as well as quickness at the snap to position in both run and pass. First-round draft choice Brandon Scherff was moved from right tackle to guard after the first week of training camp. He is productive, strong, smart and tough. Morgan Moses is a first-year starter at right tackle, where he has excellent arm length, and the strength to latch onto a pass rushing end. The backups include Tom Compton, Josh LeRibeus and Ty Nsekhe.
Washington has a new defensive coordinator in Joe Barry, who has installed a 3-4 scheme designed to be aggressive and disruptive. Entering Week 3, the defense is ranked first in the NFL, allowing just 234.5 yards a game. The Redskins are fourth against the run (70.5) and second vs. the pass (164.0). Only two teams have allowed fewer points than the 27 given up by Washington. The Redskins' new secondary coach is Perry Fewell, who spent the previous five seasons as the Giants' defensive coordinator.
The Redskins signed several free agents to bolster their defensive line. Holdover right end Jason Hatcher is a force against both the run and pass. He has very good athletic ability and is a legitimate pass rush force. Left end Stephen Paea, who started every game last season for the Chicago Bears, is a valuable pass rusher who is explosive and fast. Nose tackle Terrance Knighton, a UFA signing from Denver, shows impressive strength that frequently enables him to fend off blocking linemen. Reserve end Ricky Jean Francois, who played last year for Indianapolis, has good instincts, strength and exceptional hand use. Kedric Golston is a point of attack brawler, while Chris Baker has impressive athletic ability for a 325-pounder.
Washington's linebacker corps suffered two significant losses in the preseason, when Junior Galette and Adam Hayward suffered season-ending injuries. The leader of the defense is left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has started every game in his five-year career. He had 13.5 sacks and a league-high five forced fumbles last season. He is an instinctive pass rusher with a variety of moves, and he works toward the ball. Perry Riley Jr. has demonstrated burst as a blitzer. Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson is an every-snap player who led the team with 109 tackles last season. He has good range and shed skills. Trent Murphy mans the right outside linebacker spot. Rookie backup Preston Smith can push the pocket and set the edge as a pass rusher. Will Compton has the quickness to insert himself into running lanes. Jackson Jeffcoat is a sub pass rusher.
Cornerback Chris Culliver, a free agent signee from San Francisco, is a savvy veteran with ball awareness and production. He reads quarterbacks and anticipates throws. Culliver was suspended for last week's game vs. St. Louis, but will return against the Giants. DeAngelo Hall is a physical veteran who can reroute receivers. He has good anticipation in coverage and competes for the ball. Former Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, is a long-limbed safety who can separate receivers from the football.
New starter Trenton Robinson has downhill explosiveness, and closing and deep speed. Nickel corner Bashaud Breeland was suspended for the opening loss to Miami, but returned last week, when he started for Culliver. Former Giant Will Blackmon was signed last week for depth and played immediately in the dime defense.
WASHINGTON SPECIAL TEAMS
Washington released kicker Kai Forbath on Sept. 14 and replaced him with Dustin Hopkins, who spent the preseason with New Orleans. He kicked a field goal and three extra points in his NFL debut last week. Punter/holder Tress Way has good distance and hang times. He also has directional punting ability. The return specialists are inexperienced. The new kickoff returner is Ross, who is athletic, fast and quick-footed. The punt returner is Crowder, who is averaging 5.0 yards on seven runbacks. He had four career punt return touchdowns at Duke. Washington is trying to replace special teams aces Hayward and Paul.
Playmakers on Washington's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike