ASHBURN — There is not much left to say about the Redskins predicament heading into Sunday afternoon’s game at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants.
Washington is 0-2 and has already lost twice at home, and to an NFC East opponent (Dallas). Trying to dig out of an 0-3 start isn’t advisable. But it doesn’t help they are playing at a venue where they have lost seven of their last eight games. The only win? 2011. Here are five keys to a rare Redskins victory at New York:
A Kirk Cousins rebound?
There’s no question Cousins has been off early this season. He’s thrown two interceptions in the red zone. He’s skidded throws in the dirt. He’s missed golden opportunities for big plays. It’s crucial that he not feel the weight of a pending free agent year. Cousins always says the right things – that every year is a judgment year on a quarterback. But that’s not the case for the very best. Cousins isn’t in that category, obviously. But he can’t play like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Teammates backed him publicly this week when reports surfaced of frustration with his play early in 2016. That’s a start. Cousins has to be better. But he can’t try to win games by himself. That’s where his teammates come in, especially on the defensive side.
Again, the Redskins say all the right things. And game situation plays into it. But the fact is they have thrown 89 passes and run the ball 29 times. That’s first and last in both categories among 32 teams. Let’s see if they can commit to it more this week. But let’s be honest – the Giants are an excellent run-stopping team given their additions on the defensive line in the offseason joining some formidable holdovers. This isn’t the week you’re going to see a 100 yards from Matt Jones. But the Redskins showed some signs of progress last week against Dallas and must build on those. Jones broke some tackles and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Even a little bit more of that will take some pressure off the passing game.
Red zone issues
This is obvious. Washington has had 11 series reach inside the 20 this year and come away with six field goals and three touchdowns. That needs to be flipped. The two interceptions haven’t helped, either. Hitting big plays down field more consistently will help make this stat less relevant. But opposing teams know this and have generally tried to take away deep passes. Most of DeSean Jackson’s damage has come on intermediate routes that he has broken for big plays – three of them going for more than 25 yards. Rookie Josh Doctson had a 57-yard catch last week, but Cousins underthrew the ball and they didn’t score on the play.
This is becoming more of a concern. Left tackle Trent Williams (knee) wore a big ice bag on his leg after the Dallas game and has been limited in practice. Jackson (knee/ankle) has been limited as well. And while he toughed out the Cowboys game, he needs to show coaches he can go full speed and hold up. That’s in part what kept him out for six games last fall with a hamstring injury. The bet here is he plays. The offense doesn’t look the same without that vertical threat. Defensive end Kendall Reyes (groin) and reserve left tackle Ty Nsekhe (foot) worked on the side with trainers on Friday and didn’t participate. That’s not a good sign for either of them.
Norman vs. Beckham, Jr.
A reprisal of last year’s ugly feud that still simmered all summer. Norman didn’t exactly keep his cool when Beckham took a run at him after a head shot during a Dec. 20 game at MetLife Stadium against the Carolina Panthers. Beckham was suspended one game. He and Norman were both fined. It was all ugly and sordid and the NFL will have all eyes on this game to make sure there’s not a second act. Having said that – Norman is expected to shadow Beckham all over the field. The Redskins still have to deal with rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who has been a favorite target of Eli Manning so far, and Victor Cruz has had his moments in his first games since early in the 2014 season. Washington’s other corners will have to step up.
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