The New York Giants have a golden opportunity this Sunday to take control of the NFC East. They are playing the Washington Redskins, the only team in the division that seems capable of challenging them. A win and the Giants are in the driver's seat with a two-game lead. A loss and the Giants and Redskins are tied and in a five-game fight for the division title.
That's the backdrop for this week's Giants at Redskins game, and the backdrop for our weekly Q&A with a blogger from the Giants' upcoming opponent. Alex Rowsey of Hogs Haven answers our questions this week.
Ed: Why ARE the Redskins legitimate contenders in the NFC East?
Alex: The first and easiest answer is because everyone in the NFCE is a legitimate contender in the NFCE. No team in the division is completely horrible and no team is "great." We're only one game out of first and playing you guys for the division lead. Based on those facts alone, the Redskins are contenders in the division.
The second reason is health. Over the past couple of weeks, the Redskins roster has been completely healthy. That's a huge deal heading into this time of the year and teams with great healthy obviously have a huge advantage. We need to monitor Trent Williams and Jordan Reed this week after getting banged up last week, but for the most part, the roster is looking full and healthy.
Finally, the maturation and growth of Kirk Cousins. Kirk's been improving all year and I think he gives us a legitimate chance to compete. I think he could be our QB moving forward after this year. If he can continue his level of play from the past month (or even improve it), I think it bodes very well for our chances against the defenses in the division.
Ed: Why are the Redskins NOT legitimate contenders in the NFC East?
Alex: Our lack of a run game. It's historically bad right now and no team can truly compete with a complete lack of a run game like the Redskins have had for a long time now. Alfred Morris is hurt. Matt Jones is a rookie who fumbles the ball way too much. Our OL is doing a terrible job blocking and opening holes in the run game. And quite frankly, it doesn't matter what Kirk Cousins does or doesn't do if this run game doesn't get fixed. He's not good enough to win a division with no running game... not even close. Really, it's alarming right now.
Ed: Have you seen enough from Kirk Cousins to believe he can be the long-term answer at quarterback for Washington?
Alex: Personally, I have. I think I'm in the minority of fans on this one, though. I'm ready to sign Kirk for the next three years right now. I think most fans want to at least see the rest of this season play out before they'd consider signing him long-term. There's a lot of debate about what a reasonably-priced contract looks like at this point, too. I believe Kirk will get $12-13M/yr on the open market if/when he hits FA at the end of the year regardless of these last six games. I think that number could go up if we finish the season strong and win the division. The demand for QBs is crazy high and the supply is crazy low. I'm willing to pay him that right now and not risk his price going up after the season. I think most fans would be OK signing him now for somewhere in the $5-10M/yr range, but I don't think he and his agent would go for that.
Ed: The Giants have five straight victories over Washington, some of them one-sided. Why can the Redskins win this game?
Alex: The Redskins can win this game because they have a significant advantage they can attack. The Giants have the 31st ranked defense in yards allowed and are 32nd in passing yards allowed. The Redskins have a now 100 percent healthy DeSean Jackson back and Kirk has been playing the best ball of his career over the past 4-5 weeks. I think the 'Skins can throw the ball a little bit against the Giants and I think that gives them a chance. Obviously, the running game will need to get on track (as I said earlier, we can't compete without it). And that's easier said than done. Hopefully Morris will be OK for this game and Jones can hang on to the ball. Either way, I like Kirk and our array of weapons (Jackson, Reed, Garcon, Crowder, Chris Thompson) against the Giants defense.
Another thing that gives me a little hope is the drastically improved health of our secondary. We were very banged up back there in the first meeting against you guys but now basically have the full compliment of players. Bashaud Breeland is having an excellent year at CB and Jeron Johnson has been an upgrade at SS over Trenton Robinson. Also, having Chris Culliver and D-Hall back healthy is huge. I should also include Kyshoen Jarrett. The guy is a rookie and even though he's been healthy, you can actually see him getting better as the season goes along. There's noticeable improvement in his play since the last time he faced the Giants.
Ed: You are game-planning for the Giants. How would you attack the Redskins, offensively and defensively?
Alex: Offensively, I'd run the ball all day. The Redskins haven't stopped anyone in the running game for ages it seems. You'll almost certainly be able to get that going. Then, I'd hit the 'Skins with quick, short passes. It negates the pass rush and takes advantage of a scheme issue we've been having constantly playing our corners way back off the LoS to prevent big plays. A lot of times, it does prevent big plays, but it means you can hit little 3, 4, and 5-yard passes all day long.
Defensively, I'd make sure the Redskins run game stays dysfunctional. The Redskins always make a half-hearted attempt to get it going early in the game. Snuff it out quickly and they'll quit on it. After that, attack Kirk. Our OL isn't great and I think your best chance against him is to get pressure (as opposed to dropping back in coverage). He's very good with time and the 'Skins have some decent weapons in the passing game. Pressure him and force turnovers.
Thanks to Alex for the insight. Be sure to check out our Giants at Redskins Hub Page for all of our coverage of Sunday's game.