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"First-and-Ten" - Giants vs. Redskins on Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2017
It’s a Thursday Night Football Thanksgiving slop-fest set for FedExField on Thursday night as the (2-8) New York Giants return to the scene of where they ended the Redskins season on New Year’s Day to visit the burgundy and gold, who are suddenly (4-6).

We looked at the brutal and very real differences for the Redskins defense in “Inside the Numbers” over the last five games and exactly one month to the day from when the defense and the Redskins 2017 season changed for good.

Now, we look at everything else in “First-and-Ten”.

First…..

The Redskins pass rush is going to have to make up for every other deficiency that they have and there’s plenty of those. From coverage to run defense and everything in between – the Redskins need help to cover their gaping holes up.

They were able to get pretty good pressure on Drew Brees last Sunday with Ryan Kerrigan coming up with a sack, Junior Galette with a few good bursts and Anthony Lanier also contributing in the first half, with a sack and a few big rushes.

Now they take on a Giants offensive line for our “Monumental Matchup!” A Giants line that has largely struggled this year, allowing 22 sacks (the Redskins have allowed 25 sacks have been completely decimated by injury while also trying to push the envelope offensively). The Redskins defense has racked up 24 sacks on the season as of now.

However, the Giants have finally been getting better play out of Ereck Flowers, their third-year left tackle and top-ten pick right after Brandon Scherff. Per ProFootballFocus.com (PFF), Flowers has been perfect in pass blocking in his last two games, allowing no pressures in 77 pass blocking snaps. He was the only offensive tackle to do that, according to PFF, in weeks 10 and 11.

Per PFF’s Ryan Smith, Flowers is on pace to allow only 37 pressures which is down from 69 and 59 in each of his first two years, despite his run blocking struggles.

And Ten…

1 – While Flowers has improved, the Giants are struggling on the right side to protect Eli Manning. Chad Wheeler, is the New York right tackle and last week against the Chiefs, he was graded as allowing four hurries in 37 pass blocks. He was graded as the seventh-worst offensive tackle, despite drawing a tough matchup in Justin Houston. That’s because Justin Pugh was out. He’s expected out Thursday as well and right guard D.J. Fluker is banged up too.

It won’t get any easier for Wheeler as Kerrigan (7.0 sacks) and occasionally Junior Galette and Ryan Anderson who line up in certain packages figure to cause problems to Eli Manning’s right.

2 - The Giants still struggle as a team to run the ball, but have been a bit better with Orleans Darkwa leading the way. Darkwa scores his second touchdown last week in the win and has run for an average of 4.8 yards per attempt (101 – 489 – 2) with a long of 47 yards. Darkwa also has 14 catches on the year.

The Giants only have 920 net rushing yards or an average of 92.0 per game.

3. New York has deal with key injuries all year too, with Odell Beckham hurt in the preseason and then lost for the year early on. WR Sterling Shepard is not expected to play Thursday night after missing the Kansas City win as well.  The Giants are expected to trot out Tavarres King, Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph at the receiver position.

The Redskins secondary has struggled of late with DeAngelo Hall and Josh Norman coming off of two straight poor games. Bashaud Breeland was better in New Orleans and D.J. Swearinger has three interceptions in his last six quarters of football. This should be a bounce-back performance.

4. The Giants have a promising young tight end in Evan Engram, who leads New York in receiving with 41 receptions and 452 yards with 5 touchdowns.

As you probably know by now, the Redskins have been the worst team in the NFL in covering tight ends for a several year period. In 2017, the Redskins are now slightly behind Denver in yardage allowed to opposing tight-ends at 756, just two yards away from being the worst. The Skins have also allowed six touchdowns to the position group, per ProFootballReference.com (PFR) 

5. Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon are both limited for New York and might not play. As we detailed in “Inside the Numbers”, the Giants can be run on. Last year, New York was dominant at 88.6 rushing yards per game allowed and 3.57 rushing yards per play allowed.                                                                                    

This year, they are allowing a whopping 132.7 rushing yards per game and 4.38 rushing yards per play.

6 - Kirk Cousins was terrific last weekend in New Orleans. (22 – 32), 322 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked officially once, but had one legitimate intentional grounding and one very, very questionable grounding penalty.

Per Hogs Haven, Cousins completed over two-thirds of his passes (68.6%) for the eighth time this year, which puts him into a group of Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Alex Smith as the only quarterbacks to do that this year.

Cousins will be operating against a defense that is allowing only 58.6% of attempted passes to be complete.

7- Cousins, per James Dorsett of Hogs Haven, also racked up his eighth 300-yard game with three touchdowns and no interceptions since 2015. Only Tom Brady has done that, the same amount of times.

Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have done it six times while Ben Roethlisberger has done it five times.

The Giants pass defense is allowing 263.9 passing yards per game and 7.45 passing yards per play, but as we detailed in “Inside the Numbers”  they have been pretty good in the red zone and very good in goal-to-go situations, so scoring will not be easy.

8 – Landon Collins is still a stud, so the Redskins better avoid targeting him. Last week, PFF had him judged as being targeted seven times with three receptions for a total of THREE yards and an interception that came off a trick play heave by Jason Kelce. He was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week

9 – The Redskins are a team capable of winning just about every game that they play in. They also are capable of losing every game, largely because of injuries, defense and sloppy special teams.

I try to use my eyes more than numbers to prove stuff but sometimes, numbers help paint a picture. FootballOutsiders.com (F.O) has Washington as the 13th best team in “Total DVOA” at 5.6%. Their offensive DVOA ranks them # 10 in the NFL, their defensive DVOA has them at # 19 in the NFL and their special teams DVOA ranks # 24.

We’ve pounded on the lack of special teams all year long, when everyone else ignores or looks past.

The Giants are # 28 in the NFL in “Total DVOA” at minus 22.5% and are # 21 on offense, # 28 on defense and third-worst on special teams.

It will not be easy, but this is a game the Redskins have to win.

10 – Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I have a lot more I could write with a lot of X’s and O’s but the most important thing on Thursday is to remember this: Nobody’s guaranteed anything. A win, another Thanksgiving, or a path to Friday and beyond. Try and be nice to each other and have fun! Be safe and thanks for reading/listening. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com).  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN    


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