The Washington Redskins stand in the way of a victory the New York Giants desperately need to avoid another disastrous season. Let's turn to SB Nation's Hogs Haven to learn more about Thursday's opponent. Alex Rowsey fo HH answers our questions.
Ed: Am I imagining things, or does it feel like the needle may actually -- and finally -- be pointing up for the Redskins?
Alex: Feels that way to me, too. It's really all started at the top. Our owner and our President finally decided to wise up and make the smart move to go out and get a GM who knows NFL football. Scot McCloughan hasn't been with the organization long, but already his presence has been felt and he's clearly getting things turned around. He went out and had a successful free agency. He basically used FA to completely revamp our defense (the defense that's currently ranked #1 in the league) bringing in guys like: Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson (via trade), Ricky Jean Francois, Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, and (even though he's injured) Junior Galette. Those were all shrewd signings of guys who are either just entering their prime or still in their prime and who didn't break the bank. And our defense really needed it after ranking 20th in total yards allowed last year. McCloughan followed that up by turning seven draft picks into 10 and finding guys who are already contributing like: Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, Matt Jones, Jamison Crowder, and Kyshoen Jarrett. I honestly think it's safe to say that our 2015 draft is already definitely better than a majority of our drafts over the past 15 years. Our team also went from being just about the oldest in the league to middle of the pack and financially we're in good shape moving forward.
A lot of credit has to go to our HC Jay Gruden, too. He was in over his head last year and it was obvious. He retained a lot of the staff he inherited from Mike Shanahan (DC Jim Haslett, OL Coach Chris Foerster, DL Coach Jacob Burney, DB Coach Raheem Morris...) and basically tried to be HC, OC, and QB Coach. It was too much. Coming into this year, he recognized that he couldn't do it all and also made good judgments on areas of the coaching staff that could be improved. He fired Jim Haslett and replaced him with Joe Barry. Our defense already looks dramatically better. He fired Chris Foerster and brought in arguably the best OL Coach in the league in Bill Callahan. Our OL has gone from the weakest part of our team to one of the strongest in one off-season. We have the #1 rushing offense in the league. Bill Callahan's presence on this staff can't be overstated. He fired Raheem Morris and brought in your old buddy Perry Fewell.
Jay also made the decision to go with Kirk Cousins as our starting QB and that move has paid off. RGIII had been mostly terrible for the past two years and while Cousins hasn't been some superstar, he's playing well enough to keep the offense moving and complete critical third downs. He seems to be a very good fit for Jay Gruden/Sean McVay/Bill Callahan's offense. We've already reached a quarter of our win total from last year and every single unit on our team has improved. We're currently ranked top five in total defense, rushing offense, passing defense, and rushing defense. We've found an identity which we've lacked since 2012. We're a team that plays great defense, runs the ball very well, and completes third downs. That is our identity and so far... it's worked.
How's that for Kool-Aid and optimism at 1-1?
Ed: I'm still convinced the Giants would have drafted Brandon Scherff at No. 9 if Washington hadn't taken him at No. 5. Tell us about Scherff. Are the Redskins happy with him?
Alex: I'm sure you already know a lot about Scherff because we all know y'all wanted him in the draft. It was the worst-kept secret. But he's been exactly as advertised and I think most everyone is happy with him right now. He's super strong and plays with outstanding technique. He excels in the run game which fits perfectly with what we're trying to do. When he gets to the second level... it's trouble for defenders. He plays with attitude and toughness though he still needs to work on his pass protection.
Before the regular season began, a lot of fans we're down on Scherff, though. When he was drafted, it was assumed by just about everyone that Scherff would start for us at RT. And ... when practices began in the off-season, that's exactly where he started out. But after a couple weeks, the staff moved him to RG. That alone disappointed a lot of people who were/are upset that our team would spend the #5 overall pick on a guy who's playing G. Of course, it's just two games into his rookie year, so who knows which position he'll be at for most of his career. Still, matters were made worse when we played the Detroit Lions in the preseason. Scherff got abused and embarrassed. He literally got bull rushed straight back into RGIII's lap on one play and fans were worried. But leave it to Bill Callahan to coach this OL up and since the regular season began, Scherff has been a brick wall. He neutralized Suh in our opener. I'm not exaggerating. If you watched the game, you didn't hear Suh's name all day and he was primarily lined up over Scherff throughout the game. Then he went out and had a great game against Aaron Donald. Again, he won a battle against another one of the premier DTs in the game in back-to-back weeks... in his first two games as a pro. So at this point, basically everyone is very happy with him.
Ed: If you were game planning against the Redskins, how would you attack them? Both offensively and defensively?
Alex: Offensively, I'd break out a quick passing attack. This could be a benefit to you guys with McAdoo's quick passing attack. The strength of the Redskins defense is their front seven. We're extremely difficult to run on and get very good pressure on the QB even without blitzing. However, our secondary is still suspect. If you're picking a part of the defense to attack, the secondary is it. I'd work on getting quick passes off before the pass rush can have an effect and test the DBs. Chris Culliver is great, but I'd test guys like Bashaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall. Once you've got the safeties sucked in on the short passes, take some deep shots. Our safeties are the weak link. Dashon Goldson has been very good, but our starting SS, Duke Ihenacho, is gone for the year and Trenton Robinson is pedestrian. I'd pick on him. Also, I'd try to get ILB Will Compton in coverage. Our starter, Perry Riley, is out for this game and not very good in coverage, anyway. You guys destroyed us with Larry Donnell last year by working the seams and beating ILBs. I think we're still susceptible there, though not as much as last year.
The defensive game plan is much simpler. You have to sell out to stop the run and make us beat you with the pass. Our running game is on point. We're leading the league in rushing and have two RBs, Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, who are currently #6 and #8 in the league rushing, respectively. Bill Callahan has the OL absolutely killing guys in the run game. So defensively, that has to be your first priority. Eight in the box, at least, every single play. Make Kirk Cousins throw. He hasn't proven capable of controlling a game yet and we're without our WR1 DeSean Jackson. Also, our coverage units on STs aren't very good. Some good KO and/or punt returns can be had.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants roster NOT NAMED ODELL BECKHAM and put him in your lineup, who would it be? Why?
Alex: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I've already explained that our secondary is the weak spot and DRC would shore that up real quick. Having him on one side and Chris Culliver on the other would give us serious talent and depth at CB. While our safeties still aren't All-Pros, neither is anyone on your roster there.
Ed: Kirk Cousins is a) the long-term answer at quarterback for Washington b) A nice fill-in until the draft someone else c) I still don't know yet?
Alex: The obvious correct choice is C. How could anyone know? He's only played in a grand total of 16 games in his career and only started 11. If choosing between A and B, I lean towards B for now, but I really don't think anyone can say, yet. You saw just how poorly he's capable of playing last year with the four-INT game against you guys, but then we've also seen games where he goes out and completes 85% of his passes and doesn't turn the ball over at all like last week. We've seen him throw for only 150 yards in a game and we've seen him throw for 427. We've seen the three-TD games and the zero-TD games. So it's just really too small of a sample size to say. I think he has all the tools and has the potential to be the long-term answer, but he'll have to show that this year. I think he has this season as his showcase. If we win a bunch of games and he plays well, I think they'll stick with him. If not, I think we'll have a new QB next year.
My answers to Alex's questions are already posted at Hogs Haven.