This marks the 165th overall meeting between the teams, and the 163rd in the regular season. The Giants lead the series, 95-65-4, and have won the past two contests.
Both teams enter this game with 1-2 records. The Giants lost their first two games of the season before defeating Houston, 30-17, on Sunday.
No short turnaround is ideal, but the Redskins limp into this game, having listed 17 players on the injury report. They have no choice but to soldier on through, however.
Here are five story lines to monitor in this nationally televised game.
1. Second-half Cousins: In his first two outings of the season, Kirk Cousins has displayed a great command of the offense and the ability to get off to a hot start. He completed his first 12 passes against Jacksonville, and his first eight against Philadelphia and also threw two first-half touchdown passes.
The second halves of games have been a different story, however. It didn’t matter in the Jacksonville blowout, but Cousins completed only 40 percent of his passes after halftime. Against Philly, with the game on the line, he threw an interception to kill a key scoring opportunity, and then with the ball in Eagles territory with two minutes left, Cousins had three straight incompletions, and his team lost by three.
As he tries to prove himself as a starter, Cousins must show he can deliver in crunch time. He said Tuesday that greater attention to detail, and better preparation will make the difference. Jay Gruden said more experience will also help. Cousins also needs a little more patience in the pocket. It’s great he gets the ball out quickly, but some times it’s too fast. If he can slow down just half a second to give his receivers a sliver of additional time, Cousins can become even more effective. We’ll see if he can brush up on these two areas Thursday.
2. Breeland in the spotlight: Ready or not, rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland finds himself thrust into a huge role with DeAngelo Hall now lost for the season. In small samplings of action, the fourth-round draft pick has shown signs of promise. He’s aggressive, physical and has good instincts. He likely will take some lumps early on, however. The Eagles went right at him as soon as he got into the game and he drew an illegal contact penalty. Later, Breeland broke up a pass that came his way. He narrowly missed a diving interception (originally, it looked like a pick, but after review, the play was negated as the ball hit the turf).
Breeland says he feels ready for this big promotion, but he knows he has huge shoes to fill. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz described Washington losing Hall as a “big blow” because Hall greatly impacted New York’s passing game plan. Jim Haslett says he has a lot of confidence in his rookie. We’ll see if he can deliver.
3. Orakpo’s effectiveness: Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo will wear a hard cast on his left hand after dislocating his middle finger. He doesn’t yet know how well he will be able to operate without the full use of his left hand, but look for Jim Haslett to try to help him out by lining him up on the left side again, where Orakpo will use his right hand more predominantly.
As they face longtime nemesis Eli Manning, who owns a 13-6 career record against the Redskins, it’s extremely important that Washington’s pass rushers have a big day. Manning is operating out of a new offense and still is working out some of the kinks, but it doesn’t take much for him to settle into gunslinger mode. The Redskins must harass Manning often and prevent him from getting comfortable. A disruptive effort from Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher and the rest will go a long way toward helping ease pressure on the secondary.
4. Special teams play: Both Redskins losses this season have featured game-defining special teams gaffes. Last week, Washington surrendered a 102-yard kickoff return because Brandon Meriweather whiffed on an uncontested tackle, and Trenton Robinson got out of his lane and wasn’t in position to provide backup. Then, Kai Forbath missed a 33-yard field goal, which should be automatic.
Redskins players insist that the blunders don’t reflect the true state of their units. But if they truly have improved, these mistakes would not continue popping up. Ben Kotwica needs a strong effort out of his players Thursday night. Otherwise, the losses will continue to mount.
5. Run defense: In their first three games, the Redskins have faced talented running backs Arian Foster, Toby Gerhart, LeSean McCoy (last year’s NFL rushing leader) and Darren Sproles. That group couldn’t even combine for 200 rushing yards against Washington’s improved front seven. The Redskins, who rank third in the NFL, limiting foes to 64.7 rushing yards a game, have another tough test this week as they prepare for Virginia native Rashad Jennings. Last week, Jennings rushed for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown, and in previous games, he’s also proved himself as a receiving threat. The Giants’ offense had struggled in the first two weeks of the season before erupting last week. Washington’s defenders will try to send New York back in time a couple weeks.
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