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Tape Study: What to expect from the Redskins on Sunday

The Giants played the Redskins five weeks ago at Metlife Stadium and were defeated, 20-13. Here's what has changed for the Redskins since then.

When the Redskins Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Quarterback Mark Sanchez

Only two weeks after the Redskins lost their starting quarterback Alex Smith to a broken leg, his replacement, Colt McCoy, fractured his fibula on Monday night against the Eagles. The Redskins inserted Mark Sanchez, who had only been with the team for a couple of weeks. After the game, Jay Gruden said their playbook was limited because Sanchez had not been with the team long enough to have an understanding of the entire playbook. 

Sanchez is a pocket passer, but has the ability to scramble and move to gain yards if the pocket breaks down or on designed rollouts. He has good enough arm strength to get the ball where it needs to go. He has been turnover prone over the course of his career. 

Inside the Numbers: Last week, Sanchez completed 13-21 passes for 100 yards against the Eagles with an interception and no touchdowns. His longest completion was a 20-yarder to Josh Doctson in the second quarter. His second-half drives included three three-and-outs, an interception and only two first downs.

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants travel to FedExField to take on the Redskins

Dan Salomone

Senior Managing Editor,

The Matchup: Running Back Adrian Peterson vs. Giants Defensive Line

Until last week's game against the Eagles when he ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run, Peterson had gone four straight weeks without running for 70 yards in a game or averaging more than 3.6 yards per carry. Despite the recent struggles, it has been a renaissance year for the 33-year old Peterson, who has 856 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Peterson showed against the Eagles he hasn't lost his straight ahead speed. His power still allows him to break tackles and run through arm tackles. He is traditionally a between-the-tackles running back, but he has been used on the edge more this season. With the Redskins down to their third quarterbacks, the Giants should expect a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson on Sunday. 

Inside the Numbers: Peterson averages 3.15 yards after contact per rush. Of players with a 100 or more carries, he has the fifth-highest "Elusive Rating", a metric devised by Pro Football Focus.

Inside the Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, Burton has caught only four passes that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air. He has caught 11 of 12 targets for 180 yards on passes that travel between 10 and 20 yards in the air. He does not line up to the left of the formation much, with only three catches, all within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, outside the numbers on that side of the field. Ertz has wide receiver-like numbers with 77 receptions (3rd most in the NFL), 804 yards and five touchdowns.

Redskins Scheme and Tendencies

Jay Gruden's offense should be very familiar to Giants fans by now. Expect frequent runs on early downs (58% runs on 1st down), setting up play action. He will move the pocket and try to get his quarterback on the move for easier reads and throws. Especially with a quarterback that has only been there for a few weeks, the Redskins will probably do this often.  

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins have turned the ball over just 13 times this season. Only six teams have fewer turnovers.

The recent struggles of Adrian Peterson might have to do with the injuries on the Redskins offensive line. They are playing without both their starting guards (Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao) and now backup Jonathan Cooper is out, too. Luke Bowanko went in for Cooper at left guard last week, with Tony Bergstrom playing right guard, but he also got hurt last week. Their starting tackles, perennial Pro Bowler left tackle Trent Williams (playing with a bad thumb) and right tackle Morgan Moses will be starting.

It’s mainly, in this situation, how they use their offensive linemen and things we’re good at upfront, so we have to make sure we attack anybody who lines up in front of us. They may be rotating O-Linemen, they may just have a certain person at one spot the whole game, we don’t know. We just have to prepare with the tendencies they have on offense. Giants Defensive Tackle Dalvin Tomlinson on preparing for unfamiliar offensive linemen

Running back Chris Thompson was back on the field for the Redskins last week for the first time since he hurt himself against the Giants on October 28. He is a similar weapon to Chicago's Tarik Cohen, and will be used as a weapon in the pass game all over the field. 

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are still weapons as tight ends. Davis is more of a big play target down the field, while Reed is utilized more frequently in the short and intermediate areas. 

Inside the Numbers: Reed has only been targeted twice with passes that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air this year, and he has no catches on those passes. Davis, meanwhile, has been targeted with eight such passes, catching three for 125 yards and a touchdown. 

Jamison Crowder made his first appearance since October 8 (ankle injury) against the Eagles last week. He grabbed four passes for 36 yards. Crowder is a quicker than fast slot receiver with reliable hands and knows how to get open.

Josh Doctson is a big possession receiver (one catch on twelve targets on passes in the air for 20+ yards). Paul Richardson is the team's true deep threat, with three catches on those same deep passes. Speedster Maurice Harris will get looks down the field as well. 

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins have only 33 passes of over 20 yards this season. Only five teams have fewer. Washington also has just 1,071 yards after the catch. Only two teams have fewer. They are a methodical offense that gets very few big plays.

Key for The Giants Defense

  1. Stop Adrian Peterson
  2. Push the inside of the pocket
  3. Get takeaways

When the Giants Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Safety D.J. Swearinger

Swearinger has developed into an excellent two-way playmaking safety for the Redskins. He plays close to the line of scrimmage and is asked to play the run, blitz and cover one on one in the slot or against running backs and tight ends. He is a very aggressive and physical player that can do just about everything you want a safety to do. His versatility allows the Redskins to play as much man to man as they do.  

Swearinger's numbers tell a big part of the story. According to Pro Football Focus, he has four interceptions, three forced fumbles, two sacks, a quarterback hit, and three hurries. He will break on the ball in coverage, and go after the football on tackles.

The Matchup: Edge Rusher Ryan Kerrigan vs RT Chad Wheeler

Giants fans must feel like Kerrigan has been torturing them forever. He has been a thorn in their side for eight seasons, including a 1.5 sack performance in the first matchup between the Giants and Redskins on October 28. His run defense as an edge setter is apparent on tape as well. He is as fundamentally sound as any football player out there. 

Kerrigan lines up almost exclusively over the right tackle as either a stand-up rusher or with his hand in the dirt. His power and violent hands, aided by strong fundamentals and technique, are why he is successful. He can turn the corner, but speed and bend are not his greatest attributes. Chad Wheeler will have to be on top of his game to slow down this relentless pass rusher. 

Inside the Numbers: In addition to Kerrigan's eight sacks, he also has 2 quarterback hits, 33 hurries and two forced fumbles.

Redskins Schemes and Tendencies

The Redskins want to bring Swearinger into the box to help against the run and play man to man with a single high safety deep. They'll mix in Cover 3 and some two-deep concepts, but man to man defense and pressuring the quarterback with either their front four or extra blitzers is part of their DNA. If the Giants can protect, there will be opportunities for big plays down the field. 

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins have 22 takeaways and a +9 turnover ratio (4th best in the league). Only three teams have more takeaways. The Redskins will give up yards in the passing game (264.7 yards allowed per game – 27th in the NFL). but their ability to take the ball away and their 9th best (51%) red zone defense has made up for that deficiency. They also have four red zone takeaways this season.

The Redskins are far from a one-man defensive front. Preston Smith has played very well this year as a pass rusher going against left tackles and is better than his 3.5 sacks would indicate. Da'Ron Payne has played like a Pro Bowler at defensive tackle, joining Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis on the interior of the defensive line. Their front is disruptive against the run and the pass, and will live in the opponent's backfield if the opposing offensive line allows them. Their ability to penetrate, shut down the running game, and pressure the quarterback is the key to everything the Redskins do on defense. 

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins struggle when you get positive yardage on first and second down. On third downs of fewer than four yards, Washington allows opposing teams to convert 82% of the time, which is the highest mark in the NFL. 

Linebacker Zach Brown is on the field for all three downs, and is an excellent all-around linebacker. Mason Foster leads the team in tackles. 

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins have only allowed one 20+ yard run all season long, the fewest allowed by any team. 

The Redskins have their three cornerbacks, Josh Norman, Fabian Moureau and Greg Stroman, all healthy for this game. Stroman and Moureau will both play in the slot and outside. Norman will sometimes, but not always travel with the opposing team's top wide receivers. He still excels at getting his head around and making plays on balls in the air. 

Inside the Numbers: The Redskins sacked Eli Manning seven times the first time these two teams played.

No, pretty similar. They’re still good on defense. They do a good job of getting a pass rush. Their front five are really strong. So, we got to handle that. We got to run the ball, and protect, and make sure we can get the ball out on time. Giants Quarterback Eli Manning on how much the Redskins defense has changed since their first meeting

Keys For The Giants Offense

  1. Run the ball successfully on first and second down
  2. Don't turn it over
  3. Protect the quarterback