This Week: Giants 0-0 at Washington 0-0
Editor’s Note: This season, our game previews will consist of multiple contributions from the Inside Football crew. Hope you this new format!
NEW-LOOK GIANTS SEEK TO EXTEND DOMINANCE OVER REDSKINS
By Mike Fiammetta
When the New York Giants travel to Washington Sunday, they will be fielding a much different roster than the one the Redskins last saw January 2.
C Shaun O’Hara, LG Rich Seubert, WR Steve Smith, and TE Kevin Boss are all gone, leaving QB Eli Manning to orchestrate the talents of newcomers Jake Ballard at tight end, David Baas at center, Will Beatty and left tackle, David Diehl at left guard, rookie Henry Hynoski at fullback, as well as WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, the team’s leading receivers in 2010.
If there was ever a time for the Giants to return to a more balanced offense, this week might jut be it, as the returning duo of RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs is both healthy and raring to take the load on their shoulders in order to set up the passing game.
On defense, the Giants are hurting. They’ve lost two key starters from last year — LB Jonathan Goff (knee) and Terrell Thomas (knee). They also will be without DE Osi Umenyiora for a while and could be missing their other defensive end, Justin Tuck, who will be a game time decision.
If Tuck can’t go, head coach Tom Coughlin said he hasn’t ruled out brining LB Mathias Kiwanuka up to the defensive line, which would in essence leave the Giants linebacking crew short on experience, or force Perry Fewell into using a lot of the three-safety package that worked so well last season.
Washington, meanwhile, has named QB Rex Grossman as their starter for this season. Grossman, the quarterback who led the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI, beat out John Beck for the starting job. In four games (three starts) for the Redskins last season, Grossman completed 74 of 133 passes (55.6 percent) for 884 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Behind Grossman, RB Tim Hightower will line up as the starting tailback after beating out Ryan Torain in training camp. Hightower, who spent the last three seasons with Arizona, has impressed Washington head coach Mike Shanahan with his power running style, though he will likely be on a short leash after fumbling five times in each of the last two seasons.
The Redskins, who lured away DT Barry Cofield from the Giants, will provide a test for Cofield’s replacement, second-year man Linval Joseph, who will line up alongside Chris Canty in what we anticipate will be a run-heavy attack. Joseph has played well in the preseason against starters, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue his fine play now that the tempo of the game will accelerate.
With Goff out and Greg Jones expected to get the start, look for the Redskins to deploy many short-to-intermediate passes underneath, which is why we think the Giants could move toward more of a three-safety set if Kiwanuka has to come up to play defensive end.
KEY TO THE GAME
The Giants running game: Last season, the Giants ran 1,035 plays from scrimmage; of those, 480 (or 46.3%) were rushes. Of the rushes, Bradshaw and Jacobs combined for just 423 of those plays, or 40.8% of the plays from scrimmage – hardly the balance that head coach Tom Coughlin always speaks of wanting.
Given that Eli Manning appeared to be still feeling out his “new” receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, and TE Jake Ballard, the latter of whom is expected to get the start this weekend) following almost no off-season opportunities to improve the timing and communication with these important weapons, the thinking is the Giants could look to ride the running game throughout early on, at least until Manning develops a better comfort level with his receivers..
On the flip side, with S LaRon Landry declared out, this could be a good time for the Giants to see what they have with the receiving game asWashington’s starting cornerbacks, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, are talented. However, the question is will they have the deep help if the Giants decide to air it out?
GIANTS INJURY REPORT/IMPACT
- DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) – Out: This is no surprise, as Umenyiora had knee surgery Aug. 19. DE Jason Pierre-Paul will start in his place, and if Pierre-Paul is able to build upon his strong preseason, the Giants might not suffer too much without Umenyiora, who is not expected to return until sometime in October.
- CB Prince Amukamara (foot) – Out: The Giants’ first-round draft pick is recovering from surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal bone in his foot. While he has made steady progress, he probably won’t be ready to contribute until sometime in October. The injury has been a disappointment mainly because the team has high hopes for Amukamara, especially given the season-ending injuries suffered by CBs Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson, and Brian Witherspoon.
- LB Jonathan Goff (knee) – Out: Prior to the start of the season, linebacker was widely perceived as the Giant defense’s worst units. However, the Fantastic 4 – rookie Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams, both draft picks, and free agents Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich, played well enough to fan the flames of optimism that this unit won’t be so bad. So now with Goff done for the season thanks to a torn ACL suffered in Monday’s practice, it’s time for this young group, to jump in head first. Jones, the sixth round draft pick out ofMichiganState, is expected to be the staring MLB. His performance on Sunday could dictate whether the Giants bring in a veteran to start (Kawika Mitchell is said to be the front-runner for the job) or just to serve as a backup.
- DE Justin Tuck (Limited) – Questionable: Tuck’s neck hasn’t quite healed the way he hoped, and after practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday, he took himself out of practice on Thursday, but was back in a limited role on Friday. If he can’t go – and it looks as though Tuck is going to be a game time decision — head coach Tom Coughlin has said that he hasn’t ruled out moving Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end, which of course would leave the linebacking group a little light in terms of experience.
- TE Travis Beckum (hamstring) – Questionable: If General Manager Jerry Reese is hoping for Travis Beckum to pick up the slack in the receiving department left behind by Kevin Boss, it looks like he might have to wait another week at least. Beckum, who in three years has been unable to stay on the field, was unable to finish Friday’s practice after experiencing tightness in BOTH of his hamstrings. If Beckum can’t go on Sunday – and best guess right now is that he won’t be able to – that means Bear Pascoe will team up alongside of Jake Ballard at tight end, with rookie Henry Hynoski likely to get the starting nod at fullback.
WASHINGTON INJURY REPORT
Out: S LaRon Landry (Hamstring)
Questionable: TE Chris Cooley (Knee); S Oshiomogho Atogwe (Hamstring); WR Brandon Banks (Knee); WR Donté Stallworth (Shoulder); RB Ryan Torain (Hand)
MOLLY’S PICK (0-0)
By Patricia Traina
For those of you who are new to this blog, in an effort to do something different and fun, I involve my beloved seven-year old dog Molly, a lab mix who we adopted from an animal shelter several years go (in what I still think is the best decision I’ve made in my life) in my weekly regular season previews.
Why? Because I can, but more so because in the three years I’ve been incorporating this feature, Molly has done very well for the most part with her predictions, proving that one doesn’t have to take hours and hours to analyze statistics in order to predict the outcome of a pro football game.
Every week, my husband and I take a piece of Molly’s favorite chicken treat and break it in half. We tell her to stay at one end of the room while we designate each piece as the Giants and their opponents. Then we tell her to come and whichever piece she eats first, that’s her official pick for the week. It’s then up to her pet mommy to make sense out of it all.
* * *
The great thing about dogs is that they are creatures of habit. They value routine and while they obviously can’t tell time, they have a good idea when it’s time to be fed, when it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to go outside. In Molly’s case, there have been times when I’ve become so involved with writing that I’ve lost track of time only to have her get her collar and leash and knock it from the stool where we keep it to the floor to remind me that, ‘Hey, it’s time for my walk.’
With that said, the pooch is going with the Giants, who have made it a habit of beating the Redskins (the Giants have a six -game winning streak going).
Just as Molly doesn’t like to see her routine interrupted, I’m sure she doesn’t want to see the Giants’ winning streak against the Redskins end, much like the restof the Giants faithful.