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Giants vs. Redskins: Can Giants’ defense end season on a high note?

What to look for when Washington has the ball

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is it; we finally made it to the end of a depressing and embarrassing 2017 season.

Nothing went the way it was supposed to this year for the New York Giants. The offense was supposed to rebound in Ben McAdoo’s second year as head coach. The defense was supposed to build off of a dominant 2016 season. The Giants were supposed to be legitimate contenders to win the division and make a run through the play-offs.

Instead the offense proved to be among the worst in the NFL, the defense was ravaged by injury and became, arguably, the worst in the league. McAdoo was fired after apparently losing the team, angering the fanbase, and embarrassing the franchise.

But we’re to the end. But before we can move on to a whole new era of Giants’ football, the team has to play one last game. Can the Giants’ go into an offseason of change on a high note?

By the numbers

Redskins’ offense

Passing Yards - 241.0 (11th)

Rushing Yards - 92.5 (26th)

Total Yards - 333.5 (15th)

Points - 22.1 (14th)

Giants’ defense

Passing Yards - 260.1 (31st)

Rushing Yards - 124.8 (28th)

Total Yards - 384.9 (32nd)

Points - 25.2 (29th)

Can the Giants cover?

Not long ago, the Giants’ secondary was the strength of the team. Now it is a shell of its former self with its best players on the IR after trying to play though injuries. Eli Apple was seen as a young, talented potential cornerstone with a sky-high potential. Now it is difficult to see him with the team next year.

Ross Cockrell has gone from the Giants’ fourth corner, acquired just before the season to pad their depth chart, to their number one corner, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing a variety of roles depending on down, distance, and package.

On top of all that, the Giants will have to take the field without Landon Collins, a feared play-maker, tone-setter, and leader on the defense.

In the middle of the defense, the linebacking corps remains heavily depleted. Somewhat amazingly, Devon Kennard — who’s career has largely been defined by injury — has been the Giants’ healthiest and most dependable linebacker.

The Giants’ pass coverage will get a break, as Washington will be without their most dangerous weapon in Jordan Reed. Reed, who has battled injury throughout his career, was placed on the injured reserve about two weeks ago.

Wide receiver Josh Doctson remains more of an explosive threat (he burned the Giants for a pair of 14-yard catches, including a touchdown in the teams’ previous meeting), than a reliable target. He may only get a couple catches a game, but considering how depleted the Giants’ coverage is, he and Jamison Crowder could prove to be too much to handle.

Be stout in the trenches

If there was one unit that played well against the Arizona Cardinals it was the Giants’ defensive line. It was probably the game of the year for Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, while Damon Harrison played to his usual level of excellence in the middle. Both edge rushers recorded sacks, and the unit flew around the field in general.

Washington will also be without All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, but they remain formidable. They will likely lean on their running game without Reed to force defenses into mis-matches in the passing game. Andrew Adams has generally played well whenever he has been in the game, but the defense will still be without Collins, who is simply one of the very best defensive backs in the league when it comes to playing downhill.

And so it will likely fall to the Giants’ defensive line to blunt their rushing attack.

There is also the question of whether or not the young defensive ends will get into the game. Romeo Okwara was activated of the injured reserve last week, but was a healthy scratch. Promising rookie Avery Moss was likewise inactive, and his snaps had declined over previous weeks. Olivier Vernon and JPP play an unconscionable number of snaps, and that has to impact them when it comes time to rush the passer. While it might not do anything for this season, the incoming regime would probably like to have a bit more tape on Okwara and Moss for their off-season evaluation.

Will the Giants play with pride?

This is a question we have asked all season long. The Giants have consistently coughed up games in the fourth quarter that they were in position to win in the third. They have struggled to tackle and all to often effort has appeared to be lacking (granted, in several of those cases, we learned that players were trying to play through injury).

While this game could well determine whether the Giants are drafting second or third overall — which could have a profound effect on the franchise’s future — the biggest test for the defense will be whether or not they fight for a full sixty minutes.

At this point we have no clue what the Giants will look like next year. We don’t know which players will remain, which could be cut, traded, or allowed to leave via free agency. We don’t even know what scheme they will have next year.

This is the last chance for this group to make an impression, show that they are proud players who will show up and fight even when all is lost. For many it could be their last chance to put something on tape to show that they deserve to be on the roster next year — or any roster.