We can go the pun route and state Sunday's matchup is Giant for the Washington Redskins Jokes aside, the current situation is no laughing matter. Falling Sunday wouldn't just mean opening the season 0-3 for the first time since 2013, but falling three games -- and a tiebreaker -- behind the first place Giants.
Before we reach panic mode, there's a game to play. My three thoughts on the matchup plus the seven players I project sit this one out and a result prediction.
1) This isn't about Josh Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. -- All the focus on how the Redskins will deploy their top cornerback overlooks the issues elsewhere through two games and potential concerns against New York. The safety play, rough. Bashaud Breeland obviously hasn't shutdown opponents. Same for slot corner Dashaun Phillips. The Giants are deploying three wide receivers most of the time. The other two, rookie Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz have both found the end zone. Beckham has not. He might even against Norman seeing as that happened when they met last year. It also might not matter if Washington can't slow down others or New York's passing game.
2) Run, run, run -- It's not just about finding more balance in the offense, though that's needed. It's not just about taking some pressure off quarterback Kirk Cousins, but that's a wise approach after two rocky outings. It's not just about maintaining the ball (26th in time of possession), but doing so would keep it's meh defense off the field. It is about all of that, but also showing confidence in Matt Jones and the offensive line. Win or lose Sunday, going hog wild with the volume passing won't be enough for a deep run.
3) Keep calm and carry on -- This is more for those watching than playing, though the QB needs to chill and the OL needs to quit all the penalties. No doubt falling to 0-3 would have everyone looking for the exits. At that point, all playoff talk must cease. However...the next four games are all winnable. Not suggesting Washington sweeps them all after, in this hypothetical, they start by losing three straight. Just noting the reality. Cleveland with possibly a rookie QB arrives next week. Another newbie, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz visits FedEx in Week 6. That game is sandwiched between road games against teams (Baltimore, Detroit) not projected to make the playoffs. The post-bye week schedule looks daunting which is why a 3-4 start probably isn't good enough. Then again, 3-4 looks better after starting 0-3, in theory.
Who Sits -- Seven players will be declared inactive before kickoff. Best guesses and the impact of those choices.
Nate Sudfeld - If the Redskins are lucky, the third-string quarterback will never be part of the 46-man game-day roster. The 2016 sixth-round pick isn't ready for prime time yet in more ways than one.
Rashad Ross - Inactive in both games. That kickoffs are becoming deemphasized based on new NFL rules doesn't help Ross' chances. Neither does this position's depth. Indications are Ross looks strong in practices, but there's no room for now.
Arie Kouandjio - Going with only seven offensive linemen is dicey, but it's been done before, including the past two weeks. Center Kory Lichtensteiger (back) and reserve tackle Ty Nsekhe (foot) were both "limited" at Friday's practice.
Kendall Reyes - Already ruled out with a groin injury that's now lingered for three weeks.
Anthony Lanier - The undrafted free agent hasn't received any game action as Washington went with five defensive linemen in each game. Considering this unit's uncertainty even if Chris Baker (rib, elbow) is all kinds of spry, it makes sense keeping six for Sunday. That would also mean sitting a better player (S Duke Ihenacho?) at another position for the untested Lanier.
Martrell Spaight - Tough call seeing as the inside linebacker was cleared to practice after sitting out last week (concussion). That he practiced in full Friday makes this call even dicier. However, with the Giants likely using three wide receivers throughout and ILB Terence Garvin the better special teams option, Spaight sits. That is unless Su'a Cravens (Questionable; hip) gets the day off.
Kendall Fuller - The third round pick flashed at times during the summer, but recent comments from coach Jay Gruden suggest it's not the young corner's time quite yet even though Dashaun Phillips has struggled in the slot. Fuller will receive plenty of run on game days this season.
Odd man in - Matt Ioannidis. Yes, from cut to the practice squad to the 53-man roster to active. This projection is more about position than anything as the Redskins are down one defensive tackle after losing Kedric Golston for the season.
Prediction -- Washington 23 New York 20. The NFL is unpredictable. Nobody is picking the Redskins this week. Hence, we're going against the grain, counter-trey style.
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