The Washington Redskins on Sunday welcome to town a New York Giants team that’s coming off of a preseason that has seen five key defensive players suffer season-ending losses, and several others will be out for significant portions of the season.
Gone for the year are linebacker Jonathan Goff, cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Bruce Johnson, rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin and linebacker Clint Sintim. Additionally, the Giants will open the season without defensive end Osi Umenyiora and rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara, whom New York drafted in the first round of April’s draft.
There also are questions as to whether or not the Giants will have defensive end Justin Tuck, who last season racked up 11.5 sacks – 3.5 of them coming against Washington. Tuck has been nursing a neck injury and didn’t practice on Thursday, and was limited in practice on Friday.
But the Giants aren’t expecting to receive any sympathy, and they are doing their best not to dwell on the injuries.
“You feel very badly for the player and the amount of work he’s put into it, and you ask all the questions of why this would happen, and then you move on,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “That’s really all you can do. Whatever you’re saddled with, you have to do the best you can.”
If Tuck can’t go, more pressure is added on second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who as a rookie last season recorded two of his 4.5 sacks against the Redskins.
“He’s improved so much over the summer,” said Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, who will draw the assignment of fending off Pierre-Paul. “He has freakishly long arms and he’s strong and fast, and just keeps getting better. You can tell he knows the game better. ... He looks more assertive and more explosive coming off the ball.”
If Tuck can go, he will face off with right tackle Jammal Brown on the other end, giving the Giants a formidable pass rush tandem.
On offense, it’s no secret that the Giants can run the ball with the best of them. Ahmad Bradshaw last season rushed for 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns. Meanwhile, Brandon Jacobs chipped in with 823 yards (5.6 ypc) and nine touchdowns. In their two meetings last season, the Giants tallied 279 rushing yards (including 197 in the first meeting).
Linebackers London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh and Brian Orakpo have noted that thanks to the upgrades along the defensive line, they have been able to get to the ball with greater ease this season. It will be on them to meet Jacobs and Bradshaw at the line, wrap up and hold them for minimal gains.
Of course, there is Eli Manning, who for a second straight season threw for 4,000 yards and recorded a career-high 31 touchdown passes. New York lost receiver Steve Smith to free agency, but still have Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham to go to. Manning lost another target in veteran tight end Kevin Boss. In his place is rookie Jake Ballard.
Manning has a new face in front of him as well. Center David Bass, signed as a free agent this summer and replaced Shaun O’Hara, whom New York released. Other movement along the offensive line: Will Beatty takes over as starting left tackle after serving as a backup the last two years. Meanwhile, Doug Diehl, who has started at left tackle the last eight seasons for New York, has shifted to left guard.