Folger’s Forecast: Giants vs. Washington

After last week’s decent effort on offense, and despite Eli Manning’s inconsistencies throwing the ball (even in a dome), the offense remains in survival mode.

The transition to a short passing game has to be a strategy that continues into 2014, in a league where winning with the long ball is becoming tougher and tougher to do.

The Redskins’ quarterback is no longer RGIII, which is probably a good thing as his knee injury took away the crux of his game, which is speed.

The Washington defense is on life support, and their special teams are all-time bad. We wonder if they have anything left in their tank after last week’s emotional last-minute loss to the Cowboys.

Giants on Offense
The game plan last week was just what the doctor ordered for this Giants offense that is talent-challenged up front. The offseason plan has to focus on adding at least two proven blockers for Eli Manning and company. The current group has too many question marks.

Will Beatty’s fall into softness is the biggest headache. His inability to hold up against power has to change. His offseason turnaround has to be not just a personal focus, but also a coaching focus.

Line Coach Pat Flaherty needs to make Beatty is #1 priority, since Beatty and his long-term contract isn’t going anywhere.

With rookie Justin Pugh solidly entrenched on the other wing, it’s the interior of the offensive line that needs a big overhaul.

None of this week’s starters deserves to be opening day starters in 2014, the surprisingly good play of James Brewer last week notwithstanding.

The offensive line survived because the coaches got the ball out of Manning’s hand quickly.  That’s the best way for any offensive line to survive against today’s high-pressure defenses–that plus the threat of the run.  Tom Coughlin preaches balance and he’s not wrong.  It’s the only way to thrive.

With Brandon Mosley done and Dallas Reynolds no more than a journeyman, the player to watch this Sunday will be Brewer.

If he comes through with another solid effort, who knows.  Hopefully, we’ll continue to see Manning look for Jerrel Jernigan out of the slot, and maybe Michael Cox will get a couple of touches.

Sunday could be Hakeem Nicks’ last game as a Giant.  Let’s face it; after two years of uninspired play and poor health, Nicks has been a big contributor to the downfall of this offense.

If Nicks comes up big–and he just might–it will be too little too late.

Giants on Defense
The players to watch continue to be the kids.  Johnathan Hankins, Damontre Moore, Jayron Hosley, and Will Hill are the future; they’re all talented athletes.

The defense has a good mix right now, with vets Jon Beason, Justin Tuck, and Antrel Rolle still playing at a high level.

The veteran leadership is a big reason why this defense has stuck together.  The vets who have led the way are proven, winning football players, but there are off-season financial decisions to be made that could significantly affect that landscape.

One player to watch, but who continues to mystify, is linebacker Jacquian Williams.  The team’s most athletic linebacker, Williams was beaten like a drum last week in single coverage by an undrafted rookie tight end.

Williams, who actually played better against the run, has the talent to develop into a Michael Boley type. He’s so talented and still young enough that perhaps all he needs is playing time, but we’re still not convinced that Williams has the mental acuity to make that jump.

Look for Keith Rivers to get back on the field this week.  Rivers didn’t play a single defensive snap against the Lions, but his power game will be needed to defend the Redskins running game.

A player like Rivers is a necessity against running teams, but as the league continues its trend towards rewarding passing teams, power linebackers  like Rivers are nearing extinction.

With RGIII shut down, the Redskins will line up 2nd-year man Kirk Cousins behind center.  Cousins has been just okay so far.  His primary target last week was big wide out Pierre Garcon, so look for the Giants to take Garcon away and force Cousins to look elsewhere.  Cousins is a short passing, West Coast-type of quarterback who is tough to sack.

Besides Garcon, stopping RB Alfred Morris remains the defense’s top priority.  Morris has been affected by the loss of RGIII and the threat of the read option.

With defenses focusing on Morris, he’s become just another solid, big power back.  With the Giants’ strength between the tackles, this match-up favors the Giants.


Giants on Specials
After last week’s best return of the year by Michael Cox, the Giants have to be licking their chops at the holes in Washington’s special team coverage.  If the return game is ever going to help its team win a game, this is the week.


Game Prediction
Finishing strong has never been the Giants’ style, but with a win this week, it would be a 7-3 finish in these last 10 games.

We would have preferred a trend towards better draft position, but winning games never gets old.  We think the match-ups favor the home team.


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