The New York Giants close this embarrassing season on Sunday against the Washington Football Team in a game with no playoff implications. Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention, as the Giants are barely standing with a 4-12 record, and Washington sits at 6-10 after being 6-6 four weeks ago.
The Giants lost in heartbreaking fashion the first time the teams met in Week 2 when many things collapsed for New York. The final score was 30-29, and Dexter Lawrence jumping offsides, negating what should have been a game-ending missed field goal attempt by Dustin Hopkins, may have been the evidence we needed to recognize that this season was not going to be pleasant.
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and one back-breaking fourth quarter interception that should have sealed the Giants victory. Daniel Jones had 95 yards rushing, a rushing touchdown, and another rushing touchdown that was called back. However, the teams are in two completely different states right now.
Washington was ravaged by COVID-19. The Football Team started its third-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert on a Tuesday night game in a loss to Philadelphia before getting blasted by the Dallas Cowboys on national television the following Sunday.
An ignominious aura surrounds both franchises. I suppose, if there’s anything to take away from this game, it will be the last affair for Washington as the Football Team since the team is set to announce their new name on Feb. 2. As for the Giants, the wheels fell off the car, and the question remains - despite previous reports - will Joe Judge be the mechanic to fix this jalopy?
Would a statement win against Washington mean anything? Is that even possible with Jake Fromm and the carousel of offensive lineman shuffled in to start? The situation is bleak in New York, but it’s not exactly brighter 229.7 miles southwest - at least Washington’s offense can score.
Let’s look at the matchup between the Washington offense and the New York defense.
Washington’s offense predominantly aligns in 11 personnel. The Football Team has 75 percent of its plays out of the three-wide receiver set; that ranks fourth in the NFL behind the Rams, Steelers, and Bengals. They will also align in 12 personnel, which they have run 18 percent of the time with tight ends Ricky Seals-Jones and rookie out of Boise State John Bates. Starting tight end Logan Thomas is out with an injury.
Heinicke is more than likely not the long-term option at quarterback for Washington, but he proved his ability to be a high-end backup in the league. Heinicke ranks 15th in the league in passing yards with 3,299 to go along with his 20-passing touchdowns and 15-interceptions.
Similar to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Heinicke plays with reckless abandon and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder on defenders, even though he’s not a very big individual. However, he’s prone to mistakes (3.2 percent interception rate, ranks fourth in NFL) and only has adequate overall arm talent.
Heinicke has been sacked 35 times this season. He is the 12th-most blitzed quarterback in the league, with a pressure percentage of 24.3 percent (a rank of 14th).
Washington runs a considerable amount of RPOs. They’re not the Eagles or the Dolphins, but Heinicke ranks ninth in the NFL in RPOs run, and eighth in play-action passes. The RPO game, and the overall rushing attack, suffered after Antonio Gibson left the lineup last week.
Jaret Patterson, a rookie out of Buffalo, started last week with no Gibson or J.D. McKissic. The 5-foot-9 195-pound back rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown with a 4.8 yards per carry average. He was impressive in college and during the preseason this year, and he should receive a lot of work against the Giants on Sunday.
The game should be one with a lot of running, but Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner did a great job finding voids in Patrick Graham’s zones in Week 2, and last season. Expect verticals out of 12 personnel, YY-sets, when the Giants are in middle of the field closed looks; also expect EMPTY in third-and-short situations with a focus on exploiting Tae Crowder outside.
In Week 2, Ricky Seals-Jones caught an important touchdown over Adoree’ Jackson on the Football Team’s two-play drive. He’s been dinged up all year, but Seals-Jones could be a matchup problem in the middle of the field, specifically in the red zone. Seals-Jones has 30-catches on 46 targets for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
The rookie out of Boise State, John Bates, has developed well and has more impact towards the end of the season. The opportunity is there to be seized, and he’s doing a good job on the field as a blocker and as a receiver. Bates has 22 targets on the season, catching 19 balls for 244 yards and one touchdown.
In their first matchup this year, wide receiver Terry McLaurin was a problem for James Bradberry. It seemed like Graham’s defense was still trying to figure their new personnel out; they were playing a lot of off coverage in the red zone - a stark difference from their press-man tendencies from mid-season to now on third and short/intermediate.
McLaurin ate the leverage, caught a touchdown, and had 11 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown on 14-targets. However, McLaurin hasn’t gone north of 100 yards since Week 11, nor has he scored a touchdown since that same week. He currently has 73 catches on 121 targets for 960 yards and five scores. He is a good receiver, but the Washington offense is not clicking.
DeAndre Carter and Dyami Brown split number two receiver duty on the offense, with Curtis Samuel consistently trying to overcome his groin injury. Cam Sims was the primary option, other than McLaurin, against Philadelphia in Week 17, so it’s not a set wide receiver two.
Carter is an undersized playmaker with 24 catches on 40 targets for 296 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has made big plays in big situations for Washington this season.
Brown is the opposite. He is a vertical threat that’s 6-foot-1, 185-pounds. He is still developing his route tree, and hasn’t been very productive, but the traits are there for the 22-year-old. Brown has 12 catches on 24 targets for 165 yards on the season.
Sims has 211 receiving yards, and two touchdowns on 15 catches this year. The primary option behind McLaurin is actual the slot receiver who doesn’t play in 12 personnel - Adam Humphries.
This season, Humphries has 380 receiving yards on 59 targets, 40 catches, and zero touchdowns. He is a slot journeyman who thrives on creating space in confined areas. He isn’t dynamic vertically, but Heinicke will look for Humphries on third and short situations.
The current starting offensive tackles are Charles Leno Jr. (LT) and Cornelius Lucas (RT). Leno Jr. surrendered 36 pressures on the year, with 23 hurries and six sacks. Lucas was slightly better in fewer snaps with 25 pressures and three sacks. Lucas was forced into starting once rookie Sam Cosmi suffered an ankle injury.
Former Giants’ first-round pick Ereck Flowers is the starting left guard for the Football Team. It always made sense to move Flowers to guard; he was an athlete with bad feet, terrible tackle technique, and a lack of patience with engagement. Shift him inside, and a lot of those deficiencies are masked. He’s been a solid player for Washington, despite his flaws. He has surrendered 23 pressures and four sacks this year.
Brandon Scherff is one of the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL. He is a dominant run blocker, a smooth pass protector, and the type of offensive linemen the Giants need. Scherff has allowed 16 pressures, 15 hurries, and zero sacks this season.
Keith Ismael is the current starting center due to injuries. He has allowed only 12-pressures and three sacks in 194-pass blocking reps. He can struggle with big nose tackles; if Dexter Lawrence returns from the COVID-19 list, Ismael may have some problems in one-on-one situations.