By Curt Macysyn
The planets are aligned for the New York Football Giants in their quest to get back into the NFC East race after an 0-2 start to the season. New York was able to shake off early miscues and play solid football for most of the contest against the Houston Texans in winning their first September game in two years, 30-17. Washington, on the other hand, went toe-to-toe with division leading Philadelphia before dropping a testy affair 37-34 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Redskins, already without starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, probably lost cornerback D’Angelo Hall for the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
The Giants suffered no significant injuries on Sunday, and their main concern might be that tailback Rashad Jennings gets adequate rest. Jennings had 174 yards on 34 carries in the win over Houston. Big Blue will undoubtedly like to keep the Redskins’ weapons off the field, especially Giant-killer DeSean Jackson, so a heavy dose of the running game should be expected.
Before Giants’ fans toss this game into the win column, they should understand that the Redskins dominated the statistical battle with the Eagles on Sunday. The ‘Skins accumulated 511 total yards from scrimmage, held the ball for 10 minutes more than the Birds and were 8-15 on third down conversions. Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is as good a reliever as there is in the NFL these days. He went 30-48 for 427 passing yards and 3 touchdowns against the defending NFC East champions. Cousins did throw one interception on the day, but his quarterback rating was a solid 103.4 on the afternoon.
Cousins is the second rated quarterback according to Pro Football Focus with a +(6.6) grade, trailing only Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
The Redskins employ a more classic offensive approach than most NFL teams these days, as they have two primary receivers, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Garcon had 11 catches against the Eagles for 138 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Jackson caught five passes for 111 yards that included an 81 yard touchdown catch. Jackson has specialized in big plays against the Giants, and New York may depend upon Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to shadow Jackson all night.
Running back Alfred Morris has rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first two years in the league and comes into this clash averaging 84 yards per game. While the Redskins certainly have big-play capability, it would not be strange to see Washington rely heavily on Morris and his backup Roy Helu, Jr. Tight end Niles Paul already has 18 catches on the young season and is averaging 84 receiving yards in the Redskins’ first three contests.
After a slow start, the New York Giants caught fire against a very good Texans’ defense on Sunday, and the Redskins defensive unit will be missing a key component on Thursday night. Cornerback D’Angelo Hall injured his Achilles tendon and is likely lost for the season. The defensive backfield is one area that the Redskins can ill-afford to lose anyone, and they ended the game against the Eagles with only three healthy cornerbacks.
The biggest name on the Washington defense is Brian Orakpo, and the sixth year linebacker is off to a quiet start with seven tackles and just 1/2 quarterback sack. The Giants hope that Orakpo remains quiet, but the G-men’s offensive line will not be shying away from him either after containing the Texans’ J.J. Watt for most of Sunday. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has 4.0 quarterback sacks on the season, and all of them came in the week two blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Linebacker Keenan Robinson has stepped in for the retired London Fletcher and done a nice job in the middle. Robinson has 17 tackles on the season. At 6-0 feet, 238 lbs., inside linebacker Perry Riley is undersized, and the Giants may look to exploit him by running Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams up the middle.
Second-year cornerback David Amerson will have to step up his game in Hall’s absence. Amerson’s play has been rated as average (43rd in NFL) by Pro Football Focus, while the Giants’ starting duo of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara are rated as the third and fourth best corners in the league.
The Giants lead the all time series with the Redskins 50-44-1. This will be Washington Redskins’ Jay Gruden’s first game as head coach against Big Blue. New York’s head coach Tom Coughlin has a 91-72 record leading the Giants, and he is 159-132 overall as an NFL head coach.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
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 aExaminer.com.