The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday's Redskins-Giants 2017 Week 12 showdown at FedExField in Landover, Md.
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KEEP FEEEDING PERINE
If last Sunday was any indication of what Samaje Perine can do as Washington's lead back, the Redskins may finally have the balanced offensive attack they've been seeking.
In his first start since Week 3, the rookie running back easily set career highs in both carries (23) and rushing yards (117) while scoring the first rushing touchdown of his career. He also had runs of 17 and 30 yards while averaging more than five yards per carry.
Entering the game, Perine averaged only 3.2 yards per carry in his first nine NFL games.
"I thought he ran well, I did," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "I think he had good contact balance. He was patient on some of the runs. He ran through some tackles. It's really good to see him get more than five or six carries to see how he does in the course of the game. We are going to have to lean on him quite a bit."
Perine's production came after struggles early in his debut season, particularly with ball security. He was at the center of two bad exchanges and also fumbled inside Washington's own 20-yard line in another contest.
Despite those woes, Gruden hasn't lost faith in the Oklahoma product. That paid off last Sunday and the head coach hopes it continues this week against a Giants defense that ranks 30th in rushing yards allowed per contest (132.7).
"I think you just learn from your mistakes," Gruden said. "If it becomes a repeated habit after time – I think when it is an exchange issue, I think we can clean it up with the quarterback and the back. If you're fumbling through the hole and trying to get extra yards time and time again then you have an issue. But I don't think it is an issue right now. Samaje has been pretty good."
PUT NEW ORLEANS IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR
Moving on from a tough loss is always a key element of the weekly NFL grind, but with only three days to prepare in between games, it becomes even more essential.
Coming off Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss in New Orleans and the slew of injuries that came with it, the Redskins' ability to bounce back will be put to the test this week, as they prepare for a primetime matchup with a familiar foe.
"Any time you get the opportunity, you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth," wide receiver Jamison Crowder said of the quick turnaround time. "I guess it is kind of cool playing on Thursday, just to quicken things up and get that taste out."
"I'm actually happy we have a quick turnaround, because this one hurts," added linebacker Junior Galette, referring to the loss to the Saints. "It's going to sting for a while. To get a good win Thursday, I think it's a divisional game, it feels like a one and a half game if we beat a divisional opponent."
When the window between games is so tight, mental toughness becomes even more of a factor, as every practice and film study has more relevance to how the team fares on game day.
"I don't think anybody gets to this level without being a mentally tough person," said quarterback Trent Williams this week. "You just have to be mentally tough and get the necessary study time in and ask the right questions, gain valuable insight from our reps today and tomorrow and just be a student of this game."
Playing on Thursday is nothing new for the Redskins – they've had at least one such game every year since 2011 – but it is something they will need to work on. The last Redskins win in a Thursday game came in 2012, a 38-31 shootout in Dallas on Thanksgiving.
DON'T TAKE THE GIANTS LIGHTLYThursday night's game originally was going to be a battle of some of the league's brightest starts on national television. But with both the Redskins and Giants dealing with significant injury struggles, new faces will take center stage.
In total, 18 players are on Injured Reserve for a Giants team that many pundits predicted was going to be a serious contender in the NFC this year. That includes star wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.
New York is just 2-8 entering Thursday's game. Despite that record, though, the Redskins know what the Giants can do if given the opportunity to strike, as was the case in Week 17 last year when New York knocked Washington out of playoff contention.
And of the Giants' eight losses this season, three have come by five points or less.
"We can't take anybody lightly, we really can't," said Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. "A no-name can beat you just as good as any name. A guy that is well respected will win that matchup, regardless of who it is. You've got to respect the other guy, the opponent across from you and play him as if he's the best guy on the field. Don't take any slack from him.
"Realizing that and understanding that they're the New York Giants, I think that's pretty much everything that needs to be said about that. It's the New York Giants."
KICK IT INTO HIGH GEAR, KIRK
Under the primetime lights of the Redskins' Thanksgiving game, Washington will need a lights-out performance from Cousins.
Heading into Thursday's matchup, the sixth-year quarterback has played some of the best football of his career. Cousins currently holds a 101.8 passer rating, his highest since entering the league. Luckily for Washington, Cousins will be facing the NFL's fourth worst pass-defense against New York. The Giants have allowed an average of 263.9 passing yards per game and have recorded just seven interceptions.
Gruden said he has seen Cousins take great strides in his game this season and hopes that trend will continue in their upcoming game.
"He is waiting until the very last second and throwing very catchable balls and getting big plays out of it," Gruden said. "I think that is the biggest change that I've seen. He just continues to get command of the offense. I've always said repetition is king and the more reps he gets the better he just seems to get."
Cousins, who tied his season high of three touchdowns against the Saints last week, agreed with Gruden that this year has been one of his best. Cousins ranks third in the NFL in passing yards and second in first down completions. Cousins also echoed Gruden's thoughts on his ability to be an effective passer in a collapsing pocket.
"I think I've done a much better job of handling protections, of feeling the rush, of knowing when to take sacks, when to throw it away," Cousins said. "All the things you have to do in this position, I think I have continued to improve and it's helped in our offensive production."
Without running back Chris Thompson on the field to ease some of the pressure, Cousins will need to replicate his performance of Week 3, where he threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Redskins' 27-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.