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Giants-Redskins: 8 things to watch Sunday as Giants host NFC East leaders

The Giants are 1-6, but there are still reasons to be interested in what happens on the field

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New York Giants v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Will you be paying attention Sunday when the New York Giants face the Washington Redskins, or finding another way to spend a fall Sunday afternoon? Here are some things to watch if you are tuned in Sunday.

The fans

MetLife Stadium holds 82,500 fans. The Giants will likely announce a paid attendance Sunday of better than 75,000. How many fans will actually be filling those seats? How many will be Giants fans? We saw fans with bags over their heads a season ago? Will we see that again? If the Giants fall behind, how long will they stay? Fans were streaming for the exits in the third quarter of the Giants’ 34-13 Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

At 1-6, heading for a second straight disastrous season, and obviously in the middle of preparing for the future, I can’t imagine the Giants will find a friendly, supportive environment on Sunday.

NFL: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals
Dalvin Tomlinson
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing ‘Snacks’ in the middle

The game’s best pure run-stuffing nose tackle, Damon Harrison, now plays for the Detroit Lions.

No one the Giants play in that spot is going to be quite as dominant against the run as ‘Snacks.’ It would be foolish to make that case. Still, the Giants are pretty well positioned to fill that spot with Harrison gone.

Dalvin Tomlinson, a second-year player, is a 317-pounder who specializes in occupying blocks and defending the run. He should be well-suited to playing the nose. Coach Pat Shurmur, in fact, said that Tomlinson is “probably a natural nose guard.”

“The thing with Dalvin is, he’s an extremely heavy-handed striker, a guy that can punch and separate, a guy that has the ability to displace blockers, and he’s going to get his great fair share of snaps; but the truth is, there’s going to be a great rotation in that room,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said on Thursday. “Dalvin will be a huge part of that rotation, as he has been, and some other guys in the room are going to get some shots.”

Tomlinson seems fine with the idea of moving inside, saying “as long as I can line up and put my hand in the dirt, I’m happy.”

Another young player who figures to get some of the snaps at the nose is rookie B.J. Hill, the impressive third-round pick who has been playing defensive end. The 311-pound Hill is also a natural nose tackle, having spent his college career at N.C. State playing that spot.

Six-year veteran John Jenkins, a 327-pound interior defender who has been inactive the past three weeks, could also get an opportunity with Harrison gone.

The Redskins are sure to hammer the ball at the Giants and find out if they can defend the run. They are fourth in the league in rushing attempts per game (29.5) and they do have a revitalized Adrian Peterson. So, we should find out quickly how well a front without ‘Snacks’ can hold up.

[By the way, if you have a subscription to The Athletic, Geoff Schwartz offered some insight into why Harrison is so good, along with thoughts on Nate Solder’s struggles and the run game. It’s worth your time, You will learn some things.]

A division-leading team

As hard as it might be to believe, the Redskins lead the NFC East at 4-2. At least one team will have something to play for on Sunday.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Eli Manning

Love him or hate him? Think he’s overrated or under-appreciated? A symptom of the problem with the Giants’ offense or THE problem with the Giants offense?

Doesn’t matter. You get to watch him Sunday. Enjoy it, because you probably aren’t going to get many more chances to watch the best quarterback in franchise history wear a Giants’ uniform. Oh, and love him or hate him, you will miss him when he’s gone.

Something I keep reminding people is there is never a guarantee of an orderly transition when you move on from a franchise guy, even if it’s apparent his time has come. The Giants moved on from Phil Simms after the 1993 season. Manning didn’t show up until 2004, and there was a whole lot of bad quarterback play in-between.

As we are finding out with the re-constructed offensive line different does not necessarily end up being better.

How will the revamped secondary hold up?

Eli Apple is a member of the New Orleans Saints. Tony Lippett is now on the roster in his place. Veteran B.W. Webb will move from the slot to the outside in Apple’s old spot. Rookie undrafted free agents Grant Haley and Sean Chandler, with a grand total of five NFL snaps between them, will man the slot. You wonder if the Giants will begin to work Chandler into the mix more, perhaps even some in place of struggling free safety Curtis Riley. Veteran Michael Thomas has also seen some time in the slot.

A quick word about the Apple trade: I know it bothers some fans that the Giants traded away a 23-year-old former first-round pick. Let’s remember, though, that Apple’s tenure with the Giants was a rocky one. Many, myself included, figured the new Giants’ regime would move on from him before the season started. Instead, they gave him a “clean slate” and throughout the spring and summer he appeared to be taking advantage of it.

Maybe in the end the Giants just decided that Apple wasn’t part of the long-term solution.

One thing we know for sure is that Shurmur likes defensive backs with ball skills. Apple has one interception in 30 career games. Lippett had four in 2016, his only full season with the Miami Dolphins.

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Josh Norman

Just because. You know the history between these two. That always makes it worth paying attention when these two guys are on the field against each other. If and when the two are matched up against each other, you can probably expect the Giants to attack Norman. He’s 30 now, has given up completions 77.8 percent of the time when targeted — career high as a starter — and has already tied his career worst by giving up three touchdowns in coverage. The stats tell you he’s probably not the player he was two or three years ago.

Oh, those negative plays!

This is something we have been harping on here at Big Blue View, and will continue to do so. We can talk about the need for the Giants to make more big plays, which they did successfully against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday. If the Giants are ever going to play consistent offense, though, they have to eliminate the negative plays.

The Giants have gone backwards on 78 of 475 potential snaps this season. That’s one every 6.08 snaps, of 16.4 percent. It breaks down like this:

  • Offensive penalties — 27
  • Quarterback sacks — 24
  • Negative runs — 22
  • Negative passes — 5

Say what you want about Manning, but the most times he has ever been sacked in a season is 39. The only thing that is going to save him from surpassing that is a benching. At his current pace, Manning will be sacked 55 times. That’s criminal.

The other thing that is criminal is being third-worst in the league in negative runs when you are handing the ball to a player as talented as Saquon Barkley.

It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver or calling the plays. Until the Giants can do their jobs well enough to stop going backwards far too often they won’t be a good offense.

Will Kyle Lauletta dress?

For weeks now there have been calls from the fan base for rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta to play. Lauletta, though, has yet to dress for a game. That figures to change eventually as the Giants prep to get an in-game look at the fourth-round pick from Richmond at some point between now and the end of the season. Could that be this Sunday?