The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Giants 2015 Week 12 matchup at FedExField.
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The Redskins didn't enforce their brand of football against the Giants in Week 3 of the season. As head coach Jay Gruden put it, "they out-physicaled us," which started almost the moment the game began when Rashad Jennings blocked a punt out the end zone for a safety.
The Redskins finished that quarter down 12 points and the hole became too difficult to climb out from in a 32-21 loss at MetLife Stadium.
So, this Sunday at FedExField, when the Redskins host the Giants for first place in the NFC East, some redemption will be in order – to prove that a Thursday night game in September is long forgotten and that New York has yet to experience Washington's full capabilities.
This is mostly because of time and progress, two months of each unit gelling, building more confidence and watching new starters emerge. Rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett, who has taken some of the nickel cornerback duties since then, has noticed the difference.
"It's just communication and being comfortable with each other," he said. "I'm a new guy. Dashon Goldson's a new guy, Will Blackmon. You've got a couple new guys, that chemistry and communication. It may take a little bit, but we have increased that tremendously in the leadership of Dashon Goldson."
The biggest factor aiding the team's desire for revenge is that this game takes place at home, where the Redskins are 4-1 and have played like a completely different team.
At FedExField, quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 10 touchdowns to two interceptions while on the road he's thrown for five scores and eight interceptions (two of which came at MetLife). On the ground, the Redskins are averaging 145.8 yards per game vs. 44.8 on the road.
The latter could be the biggest improvement from their first matchup. The leading rusher that game was Matt Jones, who ran for 38 yards and fumbled by the goal line, an issue that has continued to plague him throughout the season.
If the ground game along with Alfred Morris and Chris Thompson can find some early success, the Redskins can lead with their preferred style of play. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson should continue to provide coverage issues for a secondary that will be seeing him for the first time this season. And the defense doesn't need to watch film to know they need to always watch wide receiver Odell Beckham.
Gruden has never beaten the Giants under his tenure, and this week in practice it's been made evident that he sees Sunday as a one-game season.
"They do a great job – their coaching staff – in getting them ready physically, and that's the one thing we've got to do a good job of with our team this year," Gruden said. "Be ready to match their physicality from snap one to snap 70 and keep it going." (By Jake Kring-Schreifels)
BOTTLE UP BECKHAM JR.
The Redskins are hoping the third time's the charm in stopping New York Giants second-year wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Of course, the task is easier said than done for a player that's already had one of the best starts of any wide receiver in NFL history.
Of his 20 touchdowns in 22 games, four have comes against the Redskins.
In Week 15 last season, the LSU product recorded 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
In the first Redskins-Giants matchup this season, a Week 3 tilt on Thursday Night Football, Beckham Jr. nabbed seven receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown.
"He's obviously an explosive player and he's got unbelievable hands," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "He can adjust to any ball in the air, you know what I mean? It's going to be challenge for our guys, but I think whether it's [Quinton] Dunbar … [Will] Blackmon, [Bashaud] Breeland, they're fired up about the opportunity to cover a great player like Odell."
The task gets even more difficult considering No. 1 cornerback Chris Culliver on Friday was placed on the season-ending IR list after tearing his right ACL and MCL during Thursday's practice. Breeland is expected to take over the top cornerback duties, while Blackmon, a nine-year veteran, could see added time as the No. 2 cornerback.
"It's unfortunate but Coach [Perry] Fewell, he's been schooling these other guys up and that's what pro football is all about," Gruden said. "You hear it all the time, 'Next man up,' and that's the way it is. We're very sad for Chris. We're going to miss Chris quite a bit, but other guys are going to have to step up and play. We don't have any other choice."
Beckham Jr. landed on the national scene last season with his jaw-dropping one-handed catch against the Cowboys.
While that caught nearly everyone's eye, DeAngelo Hall said everyone is aware Beckham Jr. can do things like that on a routine basis.
"Any time you can move your body and contour yourself the way he does to make plays [is special]," Hall said. "That catch he made [last year against the Cowboys], ain't no regular guy flexing they arms back like that. He's just a hell of a football player. I think all that kind of weighs into it." (By Stephen Czarda)
WATCH OUT FOR JPP
Nobody necessarily needs to tell the Redskins to keep an eye on Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 12 match up against the New York Giants Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Since his rookie season in 2010, Pierre-Paul has saved some of his best performances for this divisional matchup in particular, as he has 8.5 sacks against the Redskins over that span, including games of 2.5 (2014), three (2011) and two (2010) sacks, respectively.
But Pierre-Paul does have a bit of an "unknown" factor attached to him this year after an offseason fireworks accident led to the amputation of the index finger on his right hand and damage to two other fingers.
After an extensive hospital stay, Pierre-Paul worked his tail off to get back into football shape, however, and impressed the Giants enough that they signed him to a one-year deal. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound monster of a man returned for his first game action of 2015 Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wearing a four-fingered glove on his right hand, and, although he hasn't registered a sack in two games, he has continued to be a menace to opposing quarterbacks.
It's only a matter of time before he brings one down. The Redskins hope that doesn't come to fruition Sunday at FedExField.
"He's still big, still long. He's still a very good athlete," Gruden said on Friday. "You know, I don't exactly know the extent of his injury but he looks the same to me. He's very effective and it's somebody you have to deal with."
Gruden said Pierre-Paul can be a nightmare to deal with because he's effective lining up on either side of the line of scrimmage.
That means tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses will need to always be aware of where big No. 90 in white and blue is lined up.
"He's an effective pass rusher," Gruden said. "Morgan [Moses] has had a good year, Trent [Williams] has obviously had a good year and they're going to have to be ready for his speed and athleticism off the edge." (By Andrew Walker)
WELCOME BACK, DeSEAN
Another big-name player who was unable to play in the Redskins-Giants Week 3 matchup this season was Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Two weeks earlier, Jackson injured his left hamstring while running down a deep pass attempt from Cousins against the Miami Dolphins, and he wouldn't return until Week 9 against the New England Patriots.
Since that time, Jackson has slowly but surely worked his way back into the flow of the Washington offense, with last week's matchup against the Carolina Panthers representing the best indication that the "old DeSean" was back, as he caught five passes for 87 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown.
Simply put, Jackson is a game changer when he's on the field, so the Giants will likely put their best cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, up against him for most of the game.
Rodgers-Cromartie – who also missed the Week 3 game against the Redskins – is enjoying a career year so far for New York, as he has 40 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles, as well as a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Giants should also benefit from the return of cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has been sidelined since Week 5 with a pectoral injury. "Prince [Amukamara] has been out; now he's back in at full strength. Obviously, Cromartie [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] is out there at full strength now," Gruden said. "Those two together haven't played a lot together so I don't know if that's going to change how they play — more man-to-man, what their approach is going to be — so we'll have to wait and find out." (By Andrew Walker)