Look, there’s a lot of things that frustrate me about being a Redskins fan: the constant search for a new head coach every four years (it’s like Dan Snyder’s own personal Olympics of hiring ineptitude), the never-ending carousel at quarterback, the comings and goings of high-priced free agents, and the idiot Cowboys fans who live in DC and just won’t shut up even though they probably wouldn’t know the difference between Tony Romo and Tony Kornheiser if either were walking down the street, among many others.
But even with all that, this one really gets under my skin: since Tom Coughlin has been the head coach of the New York Giants, he’s 11-3 against the Redskins. No team in the NFC East has consistently beaten the Redskins over the past half- decade or so, the way the Giants have. There are few things in life that I hate more than the Cowboys (cold weather, overcooked hamburgers, and people who purchase gigantic SUV’s but have no idea how to drive them are the only things that come to mind off the top of my head), but the way the Redskins consistently get b*tch-slapped by the Giants has got to be right up there.
After a tough first season for Mike Shanahan, there’s a sense of hope in the air. The Redskins looked pretty sharp in the preseason (especially the starters), and seem to be catching the Giants at the most opportune time possible. If they’re going end the six-game losing streak against the Giants, here are five keys to making it happen:
1. Don’t Unnecessarily Hand the Giants the Football
In other, more simpler words: don’t turn over the football. Over the last five times the Redskins have played the Giants, the Redskins turnover ratio is -11. Think about that: on average, they hand over the ball to the Giants at least twice a game, without forcing any turnovers of their own. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that the Redskins are 0-5 vs. the Giants over that span.
Regardless of the excitement built over the preseason, or the pile of injuries the Giants have accumulated on defense (more on that in a bit), the Redskins simply don’t have the offensive firepower to where they can dig themselves out of a hole made by their own mistakes. If they hold onto the football, and maybe force a turnover or two from the Giants (more on that in a bit also), that’s going to give them their best chance to win this game.
2. Get Off To A Fast Start
Take a look at the halftime score of the last five times the Redskins have played the Giants:
Giants 10, Redskins 7
Giants 21, Redskins 0
Giants 24, Redskins 0
Giants 13, Redskins 7
Giants 16, Redskins 7
The Giants have outscored the Redskins by a grand total of 104-28 – and that’s only by halftime! And to make matters worse: three of those four touchdowns the Redskins scored came with less than 30 seconds to go in the first half, and one of them was by their punter on a trick play.
Given that, do you really wonder why the Redskins are 0-5 over that span? In many cases, they’re already down by a score or two and having to alter their gameplan before most of the fans in the stadium are finished with their first beer.
The Giants come into the game, punch the Redskins square in the mouth, demoralize them, and force the Redskins to play catch-up for the remainder of the game, something they’ve never been good at anyway. Just once, it’d be nice to turn the tables. The Redskins need to come into this game, establish what they’re going to do with their offense, and push around this depleted Giants team, instead of it being the other way around.
3. Control Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw
Jacobs and Bradshaw have treated the Redskins rushing defense like their own personal punching bags. At least one of them has scored a rushing touchdown in four of the previous six times the Redskins have played each other (again, the Redskins are 0-6 over that span), including three games where either Bradshaw or Jacobs has had two rushing touchdowns in a game (including when the first time these two played each other in 2010, when Jacobs and Bradshaw had two rushing touchdowns each). Like each of the previous five or six times these two have played each other, the Giants are going to come out and run the ball right down the Redskins throat. It’s worked pretty much every time these two have played each other, so there’s no reason to not to try it again.
The Redskins 26th ranked rushing defense from a year ago (the one that gave up over 127 yards per game) can’t show up on Sunday, if they really expect to beat the Giants. Coughlin plays things old school – running the football and playing defense – and the Redskins need to do the exact same thing.
4. Get Pressure on Eli Manning
The Redskins were 25th in the NFL last season in sacks registered by their defense, and only one player on their entire defense (Brian Orakpo) had more than three sacks. That’s the reason they spent a ton of money upgrading their defensive line and their first round pick on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, and they need to see a return on investment starting this Sunday.
The Redskins didn’t sack Giants quarterback Eli Manning at all in both games against New York last year. That simply has to change. You disrupt a quarterback’s rhythm in his offense if he knows he’s going to get hit or sacked, and with Manning, he’s shown that he’ll turn the football over if you rattle him.
In 2010, Manning led the NFL with (a career high) 25 interceptions thrown, and he’s 2nd in the NFL for most interceptions thrown by a quarterback over the last two seasons (only behind Jay Cutler). And quite frankly, he’s looked terrible this preseason. He completed less than 50% of this throws in the three games he appeared in, and threw two more interceptions in his last preseason appearance.
If the Redskins can pressure Eli Manning, he’s bound to give them a gift or two. That’ll go a long way towards correcting the lopsided turnover ratio, and keeping the Redskins defense off the field.
5. Attack the Giants secondary.
Alright, Rex Grossman, you got the starting job. Now, it’s time to see what you can and will do with it, when it counts.
To say the Giants secondary is “banged up” would be a pretty gross understatement. They’ve already lost three cornerbacks – Terrell Thomas, Brian Witherspoon, and Bruce Johnson – to season-ending injuries, even before they take the field for their first regular season game. First round pick Prince Amukamara is still out, after breaking his foot in training camp.
Behind starting cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster is veteran cornerback Brian Williams, whom the Giants literally just signed off the street after he missed some time at the end of 2010 season (with Atlanta) with a knee injury, and Michael Coe, a guy who’s played in a total of 9 NFL games in his career.
The Redskins simply have to attack the weakest part of the Giants. Line up three wide receivers plus Chris Cooley (I think he’ll play on Sunday), and let them go to work on the Giants secondary. Heck, if Cooley doesn’t play, go with four wide receivers, and put Terrance Austin out there; he’s deserved it with the way he’s played in the preseason.
One receiver to keep an eye on, in particular? Anthony Armstrong. Against New York last year, he had six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting, and then two catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in the second meeting. In both games, he’s had receptions of over 30 yards, and also had receptions of over 30 yards in two of the three games that Rex Grossman started for the Redskins last year.