Eli Manning is 24 years old and already an emerging quarterback with the New York Giants. That means, in all likelihood, the Redskins' defense will be squaring off against Manning twice a year for the next 8-10 years.
Redskins coaches have studied game film of Manning from this season, as well as from the Redskins-Giants game in Week 12 last season. In that game, Manning struggled, completing 12-of-25 passes for 113 yards. He was sacked once as the Redskins dominated in a 31-7 win.
This Sunday, it's round two.
"The Giants' coaches there have done a very good job of getting [Manning] comfortable in their system," said Redskins' assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams. "He is executing at a better pace that he was last year. It was probably smart for them to give him as many reps as he got towards the end of last year. That gave him a comfort level heading into this year. The game has slowed some for him."
Manning has started all six games this year for the 4-2 Giants, completing 103-of-194 passes for 1,414 yards. Although he has completed just 53.1 percent of his passes, he has 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. His QB rating is a solid 88.7.
The Giants have scored 173 points this season, fifth best in the league.
"You don't do that unless your quarterback is really operating," head coach Joe Gibbs said.
Added defensive tackle Joe Salave'a: "Talk about a difference a year makes. He's playing exceptionally well. He's making a lot of big plays and he's gotten a great response from the other guys surrounding him."
Those players surrounding him include a handful of players who have been a thorn to the Redskins for years: running back Tiki Barber, wide receiver Amani Toomer and tight end Jeremy Shockey. A key newcomer is wide receiver Plaxico Burress, a 6-5, 206-pounder who leads the Giants with 36 receptions for 535 yards and five touchdowns.
But it is Manning who has the Redskins' primary focus.
The Redskins' defense is ranked fourth in the NFL and fourth in pass defense.
"We're going to be us--that's no secret," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "We're going to blitz and pressure. His ability to recognize what we're doing and throw the ball away, rather than stand in there and take a sack, will be a big part of him facing us. I don't want to give him too many pointers, because I don't want him to do well."
The Redskins may also employ a 3-4 alignment during the game to confuse Manning. Williams first started using that set extensively during last Sunday's 52-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers at FedExField. Linebacker LaVar Arrington was used some as the fourth linebacker.
"That's what makes our defense cool," Washington said. "We can switch it up. We can do a lot of different things. Opponents can't really key on one guy. A lot of times, they don't know who is blitzing and who isn't. I rush the quarterback a lot. LaVar does the same. They have to be aware of both of us."
Washington played with Manning's brother Peyton in Indianapolis from 1999-2003 and he said he sees some similarities.
"Eli may be a little more mobile than Peyton-and Peyton probably won't like to hear that," Washington said. "Eli is more similar to how his dad Arhie was. His dad was pretty mobile as quarterback of the [New Orleans Saints in the 1970s]. I think Eli got that."
-- KILLINGS DOWNGRADED
Defensive tackle Cedric Killings did not practice on Friday and he is now listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Giants. Killings has been slowed by an ankle injury.
Cornelius Griffin returned to practice on Friday. He remains listed as probable with a hip injury.
Lineman Aki Jones also practiced and is listed as probable. But Gibbs was not optimistic that Jones would be ready for Sunday's game.
"Cedric and Aki are the two were most concerned with," Gibbs said.
-- KICKING SITUATION
Gibbs indicated that the Redskins would likely take the decision as to who will kick on Sunday right up until game time.
John Hall is listed as probable with a quad injury, but he has practiced every day this week and appears ready to return to action. His veteran experience kicking in the windy conditions at Giants Stadium could prove invaluable.
If Hall is unable to play, rookie kicker Nick Novak would play for the sixth consecutive game. He has connected on 5-of-7 field goals and all PATs so far this season.
Gibbs said punter Derrick Frost has also been used on kickoffs during practice.