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Know Your Opponent: An Inside Look At The New York Giants


The Washington Redskins are back at FedExField on Sunday for a rematch with the New York Giants.

Ahead of the Week 16 divisional matchup, spoke to senior writer/editor Michael Eisen about what to expect this weekend.

Take a look at practice photos from Wednesday's practice for the upcoming game.

Question: How has rookie quarterback Daniel Jones developed since the Redskins and Giants played in Week 4?

Michael Eisen: That was his second start, and he's had eight starts since, so in one sense I think he's made a lot of strides as far as understanding the offense, figuring out where to go with the ball, evading the rush, decision making. In that sense, he's made good progress.

Where he hasn't made progress is leading us to victory. He hasn't won a game since beating Washington in September.

Really, that's the one thing he needs to do to kind of put a cap on an otherwise pretty good or very good rookie year. He's missed the last two games and he did not play in the first two, but he still leads all rookie quarterbacks with 18 touchdown passes.

But to kind of put a cap on the year and go into the offseason with a better feeling, he needs to win one or two of these last two games.

Q: Running back Saquon Barkley has dealt with an ankle injury throughout his second NFL season and has had games where he wasn't as effective. What do you attribute to those struggles when he's been on the field?

Eisen: I think a lot of it has to do with the ankle injury. He had 100 yards rushing in each of the first two games. We went down to Tampa in Week 3 and he suffered a high ankle sprain.

For a running back who has to plant and cut, Saquon was definitely affected by it (a) because he missed three games and (b) when he came back, he was not 100%, which you can kind of see but he won't come out and say it because he doesn't want to use that as an excuse.

But for those of us who watch him every game, last week he looked more like the Rookie of the Year Saquon from last season than he did earlier this year when he came back from the injury.

So, I think personally his numbers are down primarily because of the ankle injury. Again, not to make excuses, but he just did not look like Saquon.

Last week, he didn't have a long run -- he had 24 carries, which was a season high, none of them more than 12 yards -- but he was a grinder, and he always talks about how sometimes you have to accept those four- or five-yard runs. You're not going to break a 50-yard run every time, and last week he ran for 112 yards without having a run of more than 12 yards.

Q: What can we expect from the Giants' pass catchers on Sunday?

Eisen: A little aside before I do that: The Giants went into training camp thinking they had a really nice quartet of weapons for whoever played quarterback. At the time, it was Eli Manning.

So, you had Saquon Barkley at running back, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate at wide receiver and Evan Engram at tight end.

None of the 16 games this year will we have had all four of those players together. Golden was suspended by the league earlier in the year. The other three have missed time because of injury. Evan Engram went on IR this week and underwent surgery [Friday]. So, we have not had those players on the field at the same time at all this season.

But, we will go into this game pretty well staffed at the skill positions. Sterling Shepard had 11 catches last week against Miami, Golden Tate had just one reception, but it was a 51-yard touchdown and, as we alluded to, Saquon Barkley played very well last week and scored two touchdowns and ran for 112 yards.

The guy that we didn't really count on to have a lot of production this year but has been terrific is Darius Slayton, our fifth-round draft choice who has 44 catches. He also leads the team with eight touchdown passes, which is more than any other rookie in the NFL.

So we have Daniel Jones with an NFL rookie-high 18 touchdown passes and Darius Slayton with an NFL rookie-high eight touchdown receptions. That's a good starting point for our passing attack going forward, especially with Sterling and Golden.

So, with those three wide receivers, plus Saquon and Daniel back, the Giants obviously hope the offense is going to be very productive on Sunday.

Q: Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, I know the unit has had some struggles but it held the Redskins without a touchdown in Week 4. How has the defense developed since the first time these two teams faced off?

Eisen: The defense, in a lot of ways, frankly, has been disappointing for a lot of the season. But it has also made strides.

Second half last week, the unit held Miami to basically three points. (Miami scored a touchdown with less than two minutes to go when it was down 23 points. It was a token touchdown.)

The front has been pretty good all year. There's been change in the secondary. Right now, we're playing four first-year players in the secondary. Janoris Jenkins was released last week.

We have four rookies -- Deandre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Julian Love [and Sam Beal] -- basically starting. Ballentine in the nickel back. And Sam Beal, who was taken in the supplemental draft in 2018 but never played a down last year and was hurt early this year, he's only played five games. So, we have four first-year players in the secondary, and they're making strides, pretty rapidly, especially Sam Beal. Sam Beal had 11 tackles and made the game-turning play last week when he tackled Patrick Laird in the end zone for a safety.

So, the defense is kind of coming on. Obviously, it's a little late in the year. Dexter Lawrence, another first-round draft choice, has played well. David Mayo was signed right after final cuts and ended up starting at inside linebacker. He's played well.

We've had 10 rookies start for us this year -- eight draft picks and two free agents -- so it's a very young team. The defense will hopefully play well and continue to improve in these last two games.

Q: Finally, where do you think the game is going to be decided on Sunday? What are going to be the keys for each team as they try to pick up a division win?

Eisen: For the Giants, a lot of it is going to depend on how well Daniel Jones plays. He hasn't played in two weeks. This is obviously the first time he's sat out since he assumed the starting quarterback position. So, there's always a little mystery, especially someone coming back from an injury. His ankle injury wasn't as severe as Saquon Barkley, so he should not be adversely affected. But if he's playing well and the ankle doesn't bother him, the Giants feel they have the weapons to get going.

From the Redskins' offensive point of view, our coaches have a lot of regard for Adrian Peterson. Both our head coach (Pat Shurmur) and our defensive coach (James Bettcher) have worked with him, have coached him in the past, have been on teams with him in the past. And although he's in his 13th year and he doesn't maybe have the great games on a week-to-week basis that he used to, they're still very wary of what he can do and they still remember Adrian rushing for [149] yards last year in the first game.

So, for the defense, against any team, it's always stop the run first. And they're going to target slowing down Adrian Peterson and the rushing attack.

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