By Curt Macysyn
The New York Football Giants will not make the NFL playoffs in 2013; that issue was decided a couple of weeks ago. But the G-men did pass a critical test against the Lions last week. The team showed that it still has life and will play hard-nosed football for head coach Tom Coughlin.
Their opponents this week, the Washington Redskins, were the surprise winners of the NFC East division last year. Led by rookie sensations, Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the Redskins surprised the NFL with their 10-6 in 2012. But last year must seem like an eternity ago for ‘Skins fans, as the team has scuffled through an ugly 3-12 campaign in 2013. Controversy has surrounded the team and its coach, Mike Shanahan, who many NFL followers predict will be fired after the Giants game.
A casual fan of the NFL believes that the problems of the Washington Redskins revolve around the play of their field general Robert Griffin III. That assumption would be incorrect. Yes, Griffin had an outstanding rookie season, but no one person can make or break a franchise. Before he was shut down for the season by Mike Shanahan, RG3 had passed for as many yards as he did last year (3,200 passing yards). It is a true statement that Griffin had more interceptions this year than last (12 vs. 5), but his overall play cannot be the sole reason why the Redskins have seven less wins than 2012.
For this game, The Giants will be facing second-year man Kirk Cousins. Cousins filled in for Griffin last year and beat the Cleveland Browns when RG3 could not play with an injured knee. But backup quarterbacks are always the most popular man in every city, so the Redskins faithful believe he can do things better than the incumbent. The Redskins gave a first-class effort on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but ultimately fell 24-23 in the rain and mud at FedEx Field. Cousins completed 21 of 38 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown; he was also intercepted one time against the Cowboys. To be fair, the field conditions were terrible, so Cousins’ statistics from that game, at least, should be taken with a grain of salt.
For his career, Cousins has completed 61.7 percent of his pass attempts and has thrown eight touchdown passes. But Cousins has also thrown eight interceptions in his two years in the league, including five picks this year.
By looking at total yards, one might think that Alfred Morris’ productivity is down. But digging deeper, one sees that Morris’ yards per carry average remains relatively static from last year (4.7 vs. 4.8 yards per carry). Overall, Morris has been getting fewer rush attempts per game in 2013 (17.3) than he did last season (20.9), which has accounted for 75 less carries this season for the second-year back from Florida Atlantic. Morris has 1,213 total rushing yards this year, compared to 1,612 yard on the ground in 2012.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon set a franchise record on Sunday when he caught his 107th pass of the season against the Cowboys. It broke the previous record of 106 catches set by Art Monk in 1984. Garcon finished his day with 11 catches (on 18 targets) for 111 receiving yards and one touchdown. The veteran receiver from Division III Mt. Union College has 1,290 receiving yards in 2013 with five touchdown receptions. The Giants isolated cornerback Prince Amukamara on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday, so look for the defensive unit to do the same thing this Sunday. Johnson only had four catches in the game.
London Calling – It Quits
If you want the main culprit for the Redskins poor season, look no further than points allowed. Washington sits next to last in the league having surrendered 458 points this season, which averages out to a bloated 30.5 points per contest. As far as yards per game, the Redskins are ranked 21st in the NFL, giving up 359.1 yards per game, so the ‘Skins scoring defense is much worse than it should be based upon the yardage they give up.
While the Redskins may not be playing to keep Mike Shanahan’s job, the team will give a maximum effort to see that retiring linebacker London Fletcher goes out a winner. Fletcher indicated a few weeks back that he was “99 percent certain” he will retire at season’s end. Fletcher, who started his pro career with the St. Louis Rams in 1998, is in his seventh season with Washington. The former All Pro hails from tiny John Carroll University in Ohio and has been a tackling machine throughout his distinguished NFL career. This season Fletcher has accumulated 104 total tackles, which ranks second on the squad.
Perry Riley leads the Redskins with 111 total tackles on the year; he also has two quarterback sacks and an interception to his credit. Washington has 40 total quarterback sacks on the season, and Brian Orakpo (10) and Ryan Kerrigan (8.5) have combined for 18.5 of them. Orakpo may miss the Giants game, however, after straining a groin muscle against the Cowboys on Sunday.
Veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall leads the team with four interceptions and usually plays well against the G-men. Hall has 71 tackles this season.
The Redskins are 0-5 against the NFC East this season, so the Giants are seeking to keep their division rival winless. New York came from behind to defeat Washington 24-17 in Landover, MD on December 1. Former New York Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield patrols the middle of the defensive line for the Redskins. Cofield has 27 tackles on the season and two quarterback sacks this year.
The Giants lead the all-time series between the teams 93-64-4. Mike Shanahan has a 24-39 record in four years as Redskins head coach. Quarterback Rex Grossman will serve as the backup, and Robert Griffin III will not be active.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.