The Washington Commanders are set to head back to FedExField to take on the New York Giants in an NFC East rematch. Here are five things to know about the Commanders' next opponent.
1. Let's talk about Tommy Devito.
Tommy Devito made his first career start at quarterback for the New York Giants in last week's 49-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Stepping up against the Cowboys with next to no NFL playing time? Sounds exactly like what happened to Sam Howell 10 months ago.
Howell and DeVito debuted under similar circumstances- but those stories have very different endings. Howell getting a 26-6 win over the Cowboys. DeVito, losing 49-17.
DeVito's path to being a starter is also different. He played for Syracuse and Illinois at the college level before signing with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent. He was cut and signed to the team's practice squad after training camp, but thanks to Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor both being on Injured Reserve, he's been thrust into the starting lineup to try and keep the Giants afloat.
That has not panned out well so far through a mixture of the Giants' offense being depleted and DeVito's own limitations. He can get the ball out quickly at times, but he often struggled to dissect the Cowboys' defense in his first career start, which led to him holding the ball and taking sacks. He was taken down five times for a loss of 25 yards last week.
But it's not as if DeVito had much to work with. The entire Giants offense suffered against the Cowboys, partly because playmakers like Darren Waller are unavailable. Devito only completed 14-of-27 passes for 86 yards last week. This is compared to Howell, who completed 29-of-44 passes for 312 yards in Seattle and is leading the league in passing yards.
While it seems like Washington is finally figuring out its quarterback situation, the Giants are still looking for answers.
2. Their offense runs through Saquon Barkley.
For all the turbulence that the Giants' offense has experienced in recent weeks, Saquon Barkley has been the one constant for the unit this season.
Barkley, who has 673 total yards through seven appearances, accounts for 26% of the Giants' entire offensive production this season. While he only has one 100-yard game this season, he's been mostly consistent with at least 70 yards in four of the last five games. During the Giants' first matchup with Washington, he carried the ball 21 times for 77 yards.
As the Giants have begun to lose playmakers, the team has begun to lean on him more heavily. For example, he touched the ball 39 times against the New York Jets, which is a career high for the veteran running back.
It's stating the obvious, but Washington needs to find a way to bottle up Barkley. It's been years since his 170- and 189-yard games in 2018 and 2019, respectively, but he has made critical plays against Washington since then as well. If the Commanders limit him, it should cripple the Giants and their offense.
Check out the top moments from the Washington Commanders' first practice of the week.
3. Their defense is struggling.
Last year, the Giants' defense was the catalyst that helped propel them to the playoffs. Flash forward to now, and the unit is not quite as intimidating to their opponents.
Things are looking questionable for what once was a solid Giants defense after they let up 640 yards to the Cowboys last week, the second most of any team this season, falling only behind the Denver Broncos' 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins that resulted in 726 allowed yards.
For an offense like that of the Commanders, which seems to be finding its stride, it could be another opportunity to put up strong numbers. Washington had one of its worst performances a month ago during its first matchup with New York because of Wink Martindale's blitz-heavy system, but New York's lack of personnel could be an advantage in the rematch.
Let's start with the cornerbacks. On the left, Adoree' Jackson did not participate on Wednesday after being diagnosed with a concussion at the cornerback position. And things could be better on the line with them missing Kayvon Thibodeaux, who also didn't practice Wednesday with a concussion.
These injuries should create more obstacles for a defense that is already struggling to contain opposing offenses. The Giants are 27th in yards per game and 29th in points allowed. The Commanders will need to get past the Giants' pass-rush, which has generated the seventh-most sacks in the NFL, but if they can, there should be chances to move down the field with ease.
4. Washington may be more prepared for the rematch.
Last time, the Giants and Commanders game was a tough loss for Washington. Howell struggled to get the ball out on time, and the Giants had no problem sacking him.
Since then, Washington has managed cleaner plays, protecting their QB and dishing out the ball substantially quicker. This is a mixture of several factors, from the changes made on the offensive line to Howell's overall improvement at feeling and avoiding pressure.
Back in Week 7, the Giants surpassed their sack total for the entire season up to that point. At the time, Howell was on pace to break an NFL record. Now, things have become more manageable, although he's still been sacked more than any player in the league.
The rematch should provide a test to see just how Washington has improved in that area.
5. Another opportunity to get back on track.
Since last playing each other in Week 7, the Commanders and Giants have been on similar paths, combining for just one win in the last three weeks. How they've gotten there is completely different.
The Commanders have played two of the better teams in the NFC since falling to the Giants, 14-7. Though they lost to both the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, they were in position to win and had two of their best offensive performances against solid defenses.
Assuming Washington plays the way it has in recent weeks, there should be an opportunity for the Burgundy & Gold to get back on track with a win at home.