With the New York Giants hosting the Washington Commanders this week, our friends at Hogs Haven help us learn more about the Commanders. ‘KyleSmithforGM’ answers our 5 questions.
Ed: What is it about Taylor Heinecke that this team responds to? He’s not a great quarterback, but this team is far better with him behind center than with Carson Wentz.
KyleSmithforGM: Heinicke has an energy that’s contagious. He absolutely has physical limitations that are well documented: He’s probably under 6’ tall, he has what some describe as a “noodle arm,” and, at times, he can make some questionable decisions to try to salvage a play. However, it’s hard to dispute that he’s been a pretty effective game manager, and the reality is, in desperate need of a last minute, 4th quarter comeback, I’m not sure there’s a QB not named Mahomes, Allen, or Rodgers, who I’d rather have behind center. He genuinely seems to perform his best when the chips are down. The team feeds off Heinicke and Heinicke returns the love. He’s really an enjoyable QB to watch play, even with his shortcomings.
Ed: Are the “real” Commanders the team that started 1-4 or the team that has won 6 of 7? Are they really somewhere in-between?
KyleSmithforGM: I would say the “real” Commanders are more likely the team that has gone 6-1. That’s not to say I think this team is elite, but I do think that, at its core, it’s an excellent defensive team that, if it can minimize offensive errors, can hang in against any team in the league. Another one of our writers at Hogs Haven, Bill Horgan, wrote an excellent piece describing how this current incarnation works (https://www.hogshaven.com/2022/11/29/23481911/ball-control-offense-is-working-as-designed-for-the-commanders). I highly recommend it.
Ed: The Commanders play the Giants back-to-back with a bye week in-between. They get 3 weeks to concentrate on no one but the Giants. How big of an advantage is that?
KyleSmithforGM: I think it’s a significant advantage. Not only does Washington get a bye between the two games, the Giants have to play the Eagles. I don’t necessarily think the Giants will look past Washington - this game is too important for their playoff chances to do so - but I think it’s possible. If Washington wins the first game, they’ve got plenty of time to re-configure their approach to give the Giants a unique look the next time they meet. If Washington loses the first game, they have two weeks to analyze what went wrong and improve their plan of attack. The schedule also virtually assures New York will see Chase Young at least once in the next three weeks, which may impact their defensive game planning.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster NOT NAMED SAQUON BARKLEY and put him in Washington’s lineup, who would it be? Why?
KyleSmithforGM: I would have to say Andrew Thomas, and I don’t think it’s even that close. I’d certainly prefer him to Barkley. He’s already discussed in league circles among the top left tackles in the NFL, and it would be great to have him anchoring the offensive line for years to come. It looks like the Giants’ heavy draft investments along the offensive line are finally paying dividends.
Ed: What concerns you most about this Giants’ team? What is your prediction for Sunday?
KyleSmithforGM: Washington has been pretty effective at containing the damage of rushing attacks during the last seven games or so, and I think the Giants mirror the Falcons pretty closely in that regard. That said, I worry more about Daniel Jones than I did about Marcus Mariota. I also think the Giants have a better pass defense than the Falcons do. All that said, I think Washington wins this one, 21-17.