The Giants play their final game before the bye this Sunday, which also wraps up the first half of their season, as they host the first-place Washington Redskins. Here's what the Redskins have shown on tape the last few weeks.
When the Redskins have the ball…
The Spotlight: Quarterback Alex Smith
There really isn't anything new about Alex Smith. He is an accurate thrower in the short and intermediate ranges, which allows Washington to protect the football extremely well. He has thrown only two interceptions, and his 63.3% completion rate is uncharacteristically low. He completed greater than 67% of his passes the last two seasons.
Inside the Numbers: Smith has only attempted 23 passes of 20 yards or more so far this season, completing just seven with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Most of his success comes attacking the middle of the field. On passes between the numbers beyond the line of scrimmage, he is 64 of 79 (81%) for 742 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. On passes outside the numbers beyond the line of scrimmage, he is just completing just 56% of his throws with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Smith is mobile, and can move in and outside the pocket to avoid the rush and run for key first downs. Maintaining rush lanes will be important for the Giants defensive line.
Smith is more of a mobile guy. He did a lot of work with his legs when he was over in Kansas City. Offensively, that’s one of the threats that they bring to the table. He can make good plays in critical situations. He’s a great quarterback. Just another threat that we just have to worry about, and try to contain. Giants Edge Rusher Olivier Vernon
The Matchup: Chris Thompson vs. Giants linebackers
Despite Adrian Peterson's resurgence, Thompson is the player that the Giants should be more concerned with on Sunday, if his plans to return and play this week come to fruition. He missed the Redskins' last two games with rib and knee injuries but has participated in team drills in practice this week.
Thompson will be the third down and passing game compliment to Peterson. He leads the Redskins with 26 catches, despite only playing four games, to go along with 200 receiving yards and a touchdown. They'll use him in the screen game, and try to match him up one on one with linebackers. He has not caught a pass of more than 10 yards down the field yet this season, but his run after the catch skills are dangerous.
Inside the Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, Thompson has 152 yards after catch this year, the majority coming in the middle of the field.
Offensive Scheme and Tendencies:
Everything starts with the Redskins' rushing attack. They want to establish the run with Adrian Peterson and work play action off of their successful runs. Peterson, known as a north-south runner, is being used a lot more in east-west sweeps out of shotgun. His patience and ability to read blockers and get upfield quickly has allowed him to make some big plays off the edge. He will challenge the inside and outside of the Giants front all day long. He might not have the burst he once did, but Peterson can still run through tackles and fight for yards after contact.
Inside the Numbers: Peterson averages 3.05 yards after contact per rush, according to Pro Football Focus. Peterson has had by far his most success running off right end this year. He has 24 carries in that direction going for 175 yards, better than 7 yards per carry. Running between the guards, Peterson has only 42 rushes for 155 yards, under four yards per carry. His 27 forced missed tackles are the 6thmost in the NFL.
He just runs through anybody in his way. Hopefully, he doesn’t do that this week against our team. I guess you can say that I just love how aggressive he plays, or his aggressive nature that no matter if there’s 12 guys in front of him, he’s going to just try to plow them over. Running back Saquon Barkley
The Redskins' top receiving target is Jordan Reed. He is second to Chris Thompson with 22 catches for 268 yards and a touchdown. Finally healthy, he can win one on one against linebackers and safeties at any level of the defense. He has not caught a pass beyond 10 yards down the field this season, and does most of his damage in the middle of the field (14 catches in 16 targets for 181 yards).
Fellow tight end Vernon Davis has only been targeted with passes 10 times this season, but he has nine catches. He is one of Alex Smith's downfield targets with three catches of 20 yards or more.
Wide receiver Josh Doctson, a former first round pick in 2016, is used a lot on slants where he uses his big frame (6-2, 202) to box out opponents. Jamison Crowder, their possession receiver in the slot, has been missing in action due to injury.
Paul Richardson, a big money free agent addition by the Redskins last offseason, is their deep threat at wide receiver. He can stretch the field vertically. He has caught three of five passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.
The Redskins still run Jay Gruden's offense, with a lot of runs on early downs and subsequent play action. They have used a lot of 12 personnel with both Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed on the field together. They will drag a lot of receivers across the field in the short and intermediate areas, and put the quarterback on the move. Against man to man defenses, they will run a lot of rub routes to free up their receivers. They are not a big play, splash offense. Instead, they like to work the ball methodically up the field.
Inside the Numbers: The Redskins run the football on first and ten 59.1% of the time, the second highest rate in the league. They only gain four yards or more on those first down runs 38% of the time, the seventh worst rate in the league. The Redskins have just 74 plays that have gone for 10 yards or more. Only three teams have fewer. They can play this way because they only have five giveaways as a team, 2ndfewest in the NFL (Falcons have the fewest). The Redskins +6 is tied for the 4thbest mark in the league, a big reason for their early season success.
The Redskins offensive line is playing well. Trent Williams, a perennial Pro Bowler, is healthy and playing to his normal high level at left tackle. Right guard Brandon Scherff has been good, too, especially in pass protection. Williams and Scherff, according to Pro Football Focus, have both allowed just one sack. Morgan Moses, a 2014 third round pick, has protected well at right tackle, but has allowed three sacks and four quarterback hits. They have had injury issues inside, with Shawn Lauvao, Tony Bergstrom and Chase Roullier taking turns at left guard and center.
Keys to Victory For The Giants On Defense
1. Stop Redskins' first down runs
2. Cover well in the middle of the field against Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson
3. Prevent Alex Smith scrambles for gains
When the Giants have the ball:
The Spotlight: Ryan Kerrigan
Jarrett has missed the Falcons last two games with an ankle injury but has been extremely active when he has been on the field. Jarett has will line up at three technique and will be matched up with Patrick Omameh and Will Hernandez.
Though he doesn't receive the fanfare of players like Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald and Gerald McCoy, Jarrett is nearly as disruptive in the pass game and especially the run game. He has the combination of strength and quickness to get into the backfield and force negative plays. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, he is their highest-graded healthy defender.
Inside the Numbers: Even though Jarrett doesn't have a sack, he does have four quarterback hits and 11 hurries in just four games, according to Pro Football Focus. He is PFF's 16th highest graded defensive tackle overall, and their 15th best run defender.
Kerrigan might only have three sacks this season, but he is as solid a football player as there is in the NFL. He sets the edge well in the run game, whether as a 3-4 stand-up rusher or a guy that puts his hand in the dirt in nickel situations. He can even cover when he is asked to drop back into zone, which is not often. He plays like a defensive lineman, and does his job extremely well.
Inside the Numbers: Don't let the low sack numbers fool you. According to Pro Football Focus, Kerrigan also has 20 quarterback hurries, which means he is constantly affecting the passing game.
Kerrigan will line up primarily over right tackle Chad Wheeler. Kerrigan had a play last week where he straight armed La'el Collins and rode him all the way into the backfield. He can win with strength, speed around the edge, and with technique. Slowing him will be key to the Giants success.
I think there’s certain things that for sure we have to be careful of what we want to do and how we want to protect. He’s like a lot of very good pass rushers in this league, but he’s unique just because he’s very smart. If you make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay. His motor runs very high and he finishes every play, so whether or not it’s sliding to him or having an extra guy help out on protection, we just got to be able to mix it and then everybody else do their job as well and get the ball out on time. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
The Matchup: Redskins Interior DL vs. Giants Interior OL
The edge rushers might get all the press, but the Redskins inside players have a lot to do with how they control the opponent's running game. Second-year player Johnathan Allen, a DE in their 3-4 base and a 3-technique in their sub packages, has been disruptive inside with three sacks, five quarterback hits and 9 hurries. Alabama rookie nose tackle Daron Payne has come on strong as an interior disruptor and will make things difficult for Spencer Pulley, John Greco and Will Hernandez. Both players are hard to move off their spots.
Inside the Numbers: The Redskins are allowing just 87.3 rushing yards per game (3rdin the NFL) on 3.97 yards per play (7th in the NFL). Opposing teams have just 14 runs of 10 yards or more against them this year, the 3rdfewest in the league. No team has a run of 20+ yards against them. Last week, Ezekiel Elliott ran for just 33 yards against them.
Defensive Schemes and Tendencies
Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has his team play man to man more than any other opponent the Giants have faced this season. They combine their man to man defense with a single high safety and a lot of five-man rushes with an extra linebacker or defensive back joining the four pass rushers up front in passing situations. The Redskins will run pass rush games (twists and stunts) with their defensive ends and tackles. If the Giants do protect, there will be opportunities to make plays down the field.
Inside the Numbers: The Redskins allow a passer rating of 127.1 on passes that travel 21 or more yards in the air. Only two teams are worse.
None of the Redskins cornerbacks are playing like stars, but they haven't been bad this year either. They are doing their jobs well. Slot cornerback Fabian Moreau was hurt late versus Dallas last week, and he has been limited in practice this week. When they don't play man to man, you will see a lot of Cover 3 from Washington, and they will mix in some two high man and zone looks. In man to man, the Giants should be able to find openings with rub routes, crossers, and double moves.
It is a lot of fun watching D.J. Swearinger play. He is the low safety for the Redskins, and is all over the field in the same way Landon Collins is for the Giants. He comes down hard in the running game, will blitz the quarterback, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him assigned to Saquon Barkley out of the backfield or Evan Engram a lot during the game. He is a playmaker and a big time hitter. He will lower the boom on offensive players.
Inside linebacker Zach Brown is the other player who will be patrolling the middle of the field. He can stop the run and cover. Along with Swearinger,Brown will try to control Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. Brown missed practice Wednesday and Thursday this week with an illness and an oblique problem. His absence would hurt the Redskins defense immensely.
With Kerrigan, Allen, and Payne on the defensive line, it is easy to forget about Preston Smith. The success he had rushing the passer against Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith in their victory last week was impressive. He has the speed to bend the edge and turn the corner on left tackles. Smith does not have a sack this year, but he has 3 quarterback hits and 16 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
Inside the Numbers: The Redskins are one of the best first down defenses in the league, as opposing teams gain four or more yards only 46% of the time, the 8thbest rate in the league. They are better against the pass than the run on first down. It puts them in third down situations that they take advantage of. Washington is the 2nd best team in the league on third down plays between 4-6 yards (27%), and third best in the league on third down of greater than six yards (16%). They struggle on 3rdand fewer than four yards, allowing teams to convert 83% of the time, the second worst mark in the league.
Giants Keys to Victory:
Keys When The Giants Have The Ball:
1. Protect the quarterback
2. Get chunk plays
3. Get into 3rd and short