The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday's Redskins-Giants 2015 Week 3 matchup at MetLife Stadium.
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CONTAIN ODELL BECKHAM JR.[
It's a task easier said than done, and the Redskins found that out last season when the then-rookie played more like an All-Pro who had been around the block a time or two.
After missing the first matchup between the division rivals earlier in the season, Beckham Jr. proved exactly why he's now considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, hauling in 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns during their Week 15 matchup.
The Redskins know what kind of special talent Beckham is.
"The kid is a hell of a football player," said veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who has yet to share a field with him. "The speed, the quickness, the hands, athletic ability. …So they've got talented players at the skill position, that's not even talking about Victor Cruz when he gets back healthy. They can light the scoreboard up without a doubt. We've got a big job in front of us in keeping these guys out of the end zone."
With a different defensive scheme and a revamped secondary, though, there's belief within the Redskins' locker room that they can do different things to at the very least slow the LSU product down.
The unit has given up no more than 53 yards to any wide receiver in the first two games of the season, and have confidence they'll be able to achieve their goal. "Odell is in a class by himself, dang-near, in our division," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He had such a great year. But handling Tavon [Austin] was a good start for us, but the challenge week-in and week-out, there's going to be a somebody on the other team that's going to change your approach. This week obviously, it's Odell and Eli [Manning], so we'll have a plan obviously." (By Stephen Czarda)
LET ELI FEEL THE HEAT
Forgiving a third quarter that saw momentum swing slightly away from them, the Redskins made quarterbacking a nightmare prospect for Nick Foles last Sunday, who couldn't string much of anything together for the Rams. To get those results, Washington didn't need to do anything fancy, either.
They limited the Rams to just two third-down conversions by only rushing more than four defenders three times.
"I'm happy with the results," head coach Jay Gruden said. "I think we're doing very well on defense. Each game plan will be different. Down and distance will determine some of the rush patterns that we use – sometimes five, sometimes six, sometimes four, sometimes three. I think that's the beauty of what we're doing defensively right now. We are not vanilla."
That should help against Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who, according to Gruden, "can dissect any coverage." The Giants' offensive line has only allowed three sacks this season, which means the Redskins will likely use more disguises in the way they approach blitzing and sending pressure.
"He's a good quarterback, he's a Super Bowl winning quarterback, he's very capable to go out there and dice you up," Hall said. "His offense has kind of changed over the last couple of years…they went to a more quick passing style offense, run the ball more, and so it's not going to be those whole bunch of shots, whole lots of opportunities to make plays down the field. It's going to be more short, quick gain, methodical [plays], where they're just trying to beat you down."
If the secondary can cut down on some of those small gains, the line will have more time press the pocket, putting Manning into duress and into riskier passing decisions. (By Jake Kring-Schreifels)
CHEW UP THAT CLOCKThrough two games this season, the Washington Redskins have displayed the ability to keep their offense on the field better than just about anybody else. Their 37:49 average time of possession per game mark is second only to the Dallas Cowboys' 38:50.
Now, is it realistic to expect the Redskins to keep the ball for this long each and every week? Probably not. The league leader each year usually has an average time of possession in the 32-minute range. But the 37:49 figure through two games for Washington has been an indicator that the team is running the ball well, having long, sustained drives and keeping its own defense fresh on the sidelines.
This will be key on Thursday night against the Giants. It will be the Redskins' first road game of the season, and nothing would get the MetLife Stadium quieter than several eight-, nine-, 10-play drives, or more, that lead to scores for the away team.
"I think it's evident that when you run the ball well, when you're in the time of possession, when you stay on the field and convert third down, you have a higher chance of winning," left tackle Trent Williams said after last Sunday's win over the Rams. "We did all those things today and we ended up winning the game, so I think it's a direct reflection of us being committed to running the ball and Kirk [Cousins] just making great decisions when it was time to throw the ball."
The Giants, on the other hand, have struggled mightily in the time-of-possession battle this season. Their 25:37 average through two games ranks 29th in the league. So while one might expect the Redskins' average time of possession to come back down to earth and the Giants' figure to get back up a little, keep an eye on this battle in Thursday night's game. (By Andrew Walker)
IMPROVED FIELD POSITION?
The Redskins last week parted ways with veteran kicker Kai Forbath in favor of Dustin Hopkins. Gruden said the decision was made primarily so the team could improve upon its field position on kickoffs, as well as having a stronger leg to attempt longer field goals.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 3 match up against the New York Giants Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Through two games, the Redskins' opponents have started their drives on average at the 27.48-yard line, ranking 20th in the league. To compare, the Redskins' offense is starting their drives on average at the 26.71-yard line, ranking 17th in that category.
Hopkins help put a huge dent in those numbers last Sunday against the Rams, as four of his five kickoffs led to touchbacks.
"We just feel like with the special teams' difficulties covering kicks sometimes, it would be nice to kick the ball off through the end zone at a consistent rate," Gruden said last week in the days leading up to the Rams game. "We're just trying to get a more rounded kicker that's a little bit better on longer field goals and kicking off."
The Redskins and Hopkins hope to continue to improve upon those starting-line-of-scrimmage numbers Thursday against the Giants. With the uncertainties that can come with playing on the road, the team will need every yard it can get on offense -- and every yard it can take on defense -- to come away with its second straight victory.
Their kickoff coverage will need to be especially tight against the Giants, however, as New York ranks ninth in the league through two games by starting its drives on average at their 29.7-yard line. And, when receiving kicks, nobody in the league has been better than the Giants, whose two opponents have started on average at their own 17.47-yard line. (By Andrew Walker)