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Practice report | Containing Mariota provided Commanders with game plan for Daniel Jones, Giants

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The Washington Commanders faced one of the best ground attacks in the NFL last week when the Atlanta Falcons came to FedExField. They will face a similar force next week when they travel to take on the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. 

The Giants, who come into the matchup 7-4 but have lost three of their last four matchups, have a different approach to the run game but use similar wrinkles in their run scheme. Like the Falcons, they use plenty of motion to scheme players into the best position to attack defenses, and their quarterback can contribute on occasion with zone reads. What's more, Saquon Barkley is playing closer to the dominant form that people have come to expect from him. 

Coach Ron Rivera is grateful for what the Commanders saw against the Falcons, because it was a good opportunity to prepare for what they could see against the Giants. 

"I think so," Rivera said. "I mean, when you watch some of the stuff they do with Daniel Jones and knowing some of the things he's done in his past against us, I think it really does help us."

Jones is the Giants' second-leading rusher, and to Rivera's point, he does tend to have strong games on the ground against the Commanders. During last year's Thursday Night Football game, Jones rushed the ball nine times for 95 yards. In 2020, he carried the ball seven times for 74 yards in a 20-19 win. 

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was heavily involved in the running game last week with six carries for 49 yards. But what Rivera appreciates is how Washington's defense adjusted in the second half. The unit allowed 67 yards in the final two quarters as opposed to 100 yards in the first half, and Mariota was held to just 12 yards on two carries. 

A good example of Washington's ability to contain Mariota came on the Falcons' final drive, when the quarterback was taken down for a two-yard loss. That spooked Atlanta in avoiding another run play inside the 5-yard line, which led to the game-sealing interception one play later. 

Stopping Jones has been a point of frustration for Washington for years, and it has directly led to the Giants coming away with wins. If Washington can do the same to Jones that it did to Mariota, it would take away a big part of New York's game plan.  

And considering that the winner of the matchup will have a firmer hold on playoff position, it will be important for Washington to hamstring the Giants' offense as much as possible. 

Here are some notes from Wednesday's practice.

-- Benjamin St-Juste was not at practice again today and has been dealing with an ankle injury since Washington's game against the Houston Texans. St-Juste has been Washington's answer for opposing teams' top receivers, although Christian Holmes did perform well enough in his absence. It is possible that St-Juste will be out until after the bye week, and if that happens, Washington will continue to roll with Holmes on the outside.

-- Wes Schweitzer was back at practice, although he is still on Injured Reserve after sustaining a concussion earlier in the season. Schweitzer has cleared the concussion protocol, Rivera said, and he is working to get himself back in the lineup. For now, though, Schweitzer was working behind the rest of the offensive line and working on his pass sets during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

The Washington Commanders will face another test as they try to maintain their playoff position against the New York Giants. Check out the top photos from their first day of preparation. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders

-- In other offensive line news, Trai Turner did not practice today, and Sam Cosmi was in his place as the starting right guard during positional drills. It is still early in the week, so it is unclear at this point to determine whether Turner will be out on Sunday. Cosmi also said in the locker room that if Turner cannot play, he will be the right guard against the Giants.

-- Kamren Curl is regularly praised for his intelligence, and Rivera added to that by saying the former seventh-round pick is "a very bright young man" who understands certain concepts and sees things more quickly than other players can.

"He's a guy that's got a good feel for the game," Rivera said.

-- Fans may have noticed that Taylor Heinicke is running the ball less in this year's stint as the starter, and Rivera believes that comes from him being a more mature player. Washington has benefited from that, as Heinicke has opted to either throw a checkdown pass or throw the ball away instead of trying to get downfield with his legs. Rivera wants Heinicke to continue growing, particularly when it comes to attempting risky throws. While the rewards can be great, Rivera would rather see Heinicke try and take what the defense gives him.

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