Redskins (0-2) vs. Giants (2-0)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: MetLife Stadium
TV: FOX — Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter)
Line: New York (-4.5)
Kickoff weather: 67 degrees, sunny
Maybe it isn’t a “must win,” but let’s break out Jay Gruden’s “Code Red” from last year. The Redskins can’t afford to go down 0-3 with two NFC East losses and two home losses and expect to compete for a playoff spot. Of course, they haven’t won in New York since 2011 and have lost seven of eight in what’s become a house of horrors for them.
So start there. But there are plenty of other storylines to follow: Can Kirk Cousins shake off his early struggles? He’s never really looked comfortable in two games. Can the defense stop a Giants passing attack that can match the Redskins weapon for weapon? Hell, even tight end Larry Donnell has a history of torching Washington.
And, of course, all eyes will be on Odell Beckham, Jr. and Josh Norman. Both men downplayed their long-simmering feud dating to last Dec. 20’s ugly battle that culminated in Beckham taking a run at Norman and initiating helmet-to-helmet contact. He was suspended and should have been kicked out of the game, too. Norman wasn’t exactly an angel that day, either.
ESPN reported that Norman would shadow Beckham all over the field. We saw some of that in the second half of the Dallas game last week — even if it was against defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s stated philosophy. Credit him for making the adjustment though.
Meanwhile, Redskins players were incensed that news leaked out shortly after a defensive meeting and was splashed across television for everyone, including the Giants, to see. Former linebacker Keenan Robinson blasted his old teammates for melting down and turning on each other at even the slightest sign of adversity. That theory will be tested this week. They in turn crushed him for being a malcontent who was salty about losing his job last season and who they were happy was weeded out. Even DeSean Jackson got in the mix when he, dissed as a one-dimensional player by New York cornerback Janoris Jenkins and asked about those comments, simply asked “Who?”.
It’s all wonderfully entertaining and is what division rivalries are made of. No one thinks either of these teams is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Frankly, it’d be a shock if either wins 10 games. But there’s no shortage of bad blood. This has the makings of a classic.
Redskins: The player to watch is wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He was “full go” in Friday’s practice, but it was also a low-key affair. The Redskins are convinced that he’s able to reach top gear — their definition for if Jackson should play or not. Still, he’s fighting ankle and knee injuries. Something to keep an eye on.
The only player ruled out so far is defensive end Kendall Reyes (groin). Other players listed as questionable: Defensive end Chris Baker (rib, elbow, hip, toe, knee); rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson (left Achilles tendon); inside linebacker Martrell Spaight (concussion), who practiced full on Friday; inside linebacker Su’a Cravens (hip); center Kory Lichtensteiger (back spasms) and reserve left tackle Ty Nsekhe (foot).
That’s an every-growing list and Lichtensteiger’s injury, especially, has to rate as a concern. Spencer Long would fill in there, if necessary.
Gruden joked about Baker’s laundry list of injuries — jokingly adding “finger” and “eye” to his ailments.
Giants: Some concern here even if it isn’t a huge injury list. Starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse is OUT with a calf injury. It was clearly bothering him last week against New Orleans because … well … he wasn’t very good. A late scratch today, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, is starting running back Rashad Jennings, who has a sprained thumb. He was confident to the New York media he could play, but for a team that fumbled three times last week caution is the better part of valor here. Rookie safety Darian Thompson (foot) will also be inactive. Defensive tackle Robert Thomas has been fighting an illness and is OUT. Keep an eye of defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is off to a great start after signing from Miami as a free agent. He practiced all week full, but does have a wrist injury.
Matchup to Watch
Redskins LT Trent Williams vs. Giants RDE Olivier Vernon
They matched up last year when Washington beat Miami in Week 1. Williams is a pure technician when it comes to footwork, but last week he fought through a glute/hip injury on his left side and this week he has a sore right knee. Can Vernon take advantage? He had little impact last year with the Dolphins in that game at FedEx Field — no sacks, no forced fumbles, no tackles and then-Redskins running back Alfred Morris shredded the Dolphins for over 100 rushing yards. But Vernon has had an immediate impact for the Giants defensive front this season and he has 25.5 sacks over the previous three years.
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