When the Pro Bowl squads were announced on Wednesday, Redskins' left tackle Chris Samuels and New York Giants' defensive end Osi Umenyiora were among the NFC honorees. This Saturday, Samuels and Umenyiora will have the honor of competing against each other when the Redskins host the Giants at FedExField.
The Samuels-Umenyiora matchup--a pair of Pro Bowlers in their prime--promises to be one of the most closely watched of the game.
Umenyiora, a third-year player out of Troy State, is regarded as a hard-nosed speed rusher. Since late in the 2004 season, when he began to start regularly, he has played at a consistently high level. This year, he has 12.5 sacks, most on the Giants.
In the Giants' 36-0 win over the Redskins on Week 8, Umenyiora had some success against Samuels, logging two sacks, four tackles and a fumble recovery. Samuels left the game in the second half due to a knee injury.
On the other side, Jon Jansen and Michael Strahan meet again. For years, the Jansen-Strahan matchup has dominated the headlines whenever the Redskins and Giants meet. Since it is Jansen who protects Mark Brunell's blindside, that matchup will be key as well.
In Week 8 against Jansen, Strahan had one sack and four tackles. For the season, Strahan has 11.5 sacks.
"Jon and I have our work cut out for us," Samuels said. "Those guys have 24 sacks combined. They're playing at a high level. We can't just double-team one guy and leave one guy isolated. Both of them are great. We have our work cut out for us, but we'll get it done."
Asked about the line's performance in Week 8, Samuels said: "A little bit of everything went wrong in that game. Nobody really played well. The biggest thing is that we got behind so quick that we had to pass the ball a lot. That's not really our offense.
"We want to be physical at the point of attack in the running game, establish the run game early and pretty much dominate in the fourth quarter. We weren't able to do that because we fell behind so fast."
-- BOWEN DOWNGRADED
Safety Matt Bowen missed Thursday's practice and has been downgraded from probable to questionable for this Saturday's game against the Giants. Bowen has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Meantime, linebacker LaVar Arrington continued to take extensive work at practice and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said he expected Arrington would be available to play against the Giants.
Arrington, slowed by a thigh injury in recent weeks, remains listed as questionable for the game, however. Cornerback Carlos Rogers, who has a biceps injury, sat out Thursday's practice and remains questionable as well.
Kicker John Hall was not at practice on Thursday due to the flu. He is listed as probable.
-- LATEST PORTIS CHARACTER
Clinton Portis showed up for his media session on Thursday wearing an old leather Redskins football helmet, black-rimmed glasses with a hog's nose, blond ponytails--topped off with a brown hat.
He called himself "Inspector 2-2" and vowed that he would find out what happened to one of his former characters, "Southeast Jerome," who has not been seen or heard from since the Giants defeated the Redskins 36-0 in Week 8.
As for Saturday's game, Portis said it could come down to which running back has the best game: him or Giants' tailback Tiki Barber.
"Tiki has been playing great," Portis said. "It's going to be a showdown between me and Tiki. I know that, he knows that, and the whole world knows that. Whoever has the better day probably will be the winner of this game."
-- SHORT-WEEK WORRIES
For the first time this season, the Redskins have a shortened week of preparation for a game. The Giants, meantime, have had a full week, since they played last Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
For the most part, the Redskins' preparation for this Saturday's game against the Giants has followed form to most weeks of the 2005 regular season. On Thursday, the Redskins moved practice to late-morning. On Friday, the team will have a walk-through practice and then head to the team hotel near FedExField.
Gregg Williams said he was able to experiment with various packages and some of the younger players late in Sunday's 35-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"The last three series of that ballgame, we were able to get some valuable time for some of the guys that haven't gotten a lot of reps," Williams said. "We were able to divide up the reps. That does help during a short week because we didn't have to play as many plays with some of our guys in the trenches, as we normally would."
Since his return to coaching in 2004, head coach Joe Gibbs has a record of 1-1 in short weeks.
After a Week 3, Monday Night loss to Dallas in September 2004, the Redskins lost the following Sunday to the Cleveland Browns. Later in the season, the Redskins followed up a hard-hitting Sunday evening game against Philadelphia with a 26-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers in a Saturday contest.
-- WILLIAMS ON PRO BOWL SNUBS
Gregg Williams refused to lament over the fact that no Redskins defensive player made the Pro Bowl this year.
"We didn't play well enough," he said. "That's what I tell our guys. I tell our guys that I don't cry over spilled milk. If they want more recognition, play better and win more games.
"We had guys over deserved it, but it always comes down to the teams that are winning the division, in the playoffs, and have already clinched. Those are the teams that are going to get guys in the Pro Bowl. If you want respect, you have to earn respect. Obviously, we haven't earned enough respect."