The Washington Commanders are coming back home to FedExField to take on the New York Giants in an NFC East rematch. Here are three keys to getting a win, presented by KIA.
Eric Bieniemy put it best on Thursday; Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is who he is, and he isn't going to change his tendency to bring pressure at any opportunity.
"We need to make sure that the communication is in line," Bieniemy said. "Then on top of that, when called upon to execute, do your job to the best of your ability. If we're doing that, we'll give ourselves a chance."
The Commanders did not execute the last time they faced off against the Giants. Here are their stats from the first half of Week 7: two first downs, 0-for-7 on third down, 46 total net yards and seven punts.
Oh, and one more thing: Sam Howell was sacked five times.
That game was a turning point for the Commanders, who were on pace to give up an NFL record in sacks. Tyler Larsen and Chris Paul are now in the starting lineup, Howell is better at avoiding pressure and Bieniemy is putting the team in better position to avoid pressure.
But teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks don't bring the same amount of pressure as the Giants do on every play. Back in Week 7, Howell was pressured on 28.6% of his dropbacks and was pressured 14 times. Pressure has been a problem for Washington's offense all season, and teams took advantage of it in earlier weeks.
Sunday's game will give Washington the chance to show how much it really has improved at protecting Howell. If they can do that, then Howell could be on his way to a solid day for the fourth consecutive week.
2. Make Tommy DeVito uncomfortable.
On the defensive side, Washington must find a way to do what it's struggled with for the last two weeks: put pressure on the quarterback.
That is going to be particularly true this week, as Tommy DeVito is leading the Giants as an undrafted free agent behind an offense that may be without either of their starting offensive tackles. Evan Neal did not participate on Wednesday or Thursday with an ankle injury, while Andrew Thomas is also on the injury report with a knee issue. Thomas was limited all week.
That's the approach the Dallas Cowboys took in DeVito's first career start last week. DeVito was pressured nine times on 27 dropbacks and got pressured nine times with five sacks. As a result, the Giants' first eight drives ended with no points and a combined 19 net yards.
What's more, DeVito is working with a depleted Giants offense. Darren Waller is on Injured Reserve, and Jalin Hyatt is dealing with a concussion. Saquon Barkley is the Giants' best playmaker, but he's banged up and on the injury report with an ankle issue.
The Commanders won't get another opportunity like this for the rest of the season. The Giants are last in total offense, scoring, passing yards and sacks allowed. They're 31st in third-down conversion rate. If the defense is looking for a bounce back game, now's the time. They must make life difficult on DeVito.
The Washington Commanders were back on the field for their second day of practice as they prepare for the New York Giants.
3. Bottle up Saquon Barkley.
With all the players that crowd the Giants' injury report, Barkley is their best option on offense. So, the Commanders need to have an answer for him, but to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, that isn't different from any other week they see the veteran running back.
"When you're playing Saquon Barkley, it's always imperative that you find a way to stop the run, so it starts there," Del Rio said. "I think he's a great player, really gifted."
But the Commanders struggled to do that back in Week 7. He carried the ball 21 times and amassed 77 yards. None of his runs were backbreaking plays, but he did continue to chip away at the defense and take time off the clock. There's also Barkley's background as a pass-catcher to consider, too. He broke loose on a 32-yard touchdown pass in Week 7 that made the score 14-0.
As mentioned above, the Giants have one of the worst offenses in the league from a statistical standpoint. Things have been particularly poor in the last two weeks, as they only have 449 yards and 23 points in that span.
Still, the Giants have done well at FedExField in recent history. Since 2018, they're 4-1 on the road against the Commanders. And with Barkley as their only real weapon, it's a guarantee that he's going to be relied on heavily all afternoon.
If Washington is looking for a way to cripple the Giants' offense, turning Barkley into a nonfactor is the way to do it.