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Game Preview: Giants at Redskins

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Game Preview: Giants at Redskins

What: Giants (7-4) vs. Redskins (5-6)

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

One of the enduring images from the forgettable first half of the Redskins’ season was Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz performing a celebratory salsa in the end zone in the waning moments of the teams’ Oct. 21 meeting.

Moments earlier, Cruz had raced through the heart of Washington’s secondary and hauled in a 77-yard, game-clinching touchdown without so much as being touched by a defender. As a result, certain victory had been snatched from the Redskins’ grasp.

“We were supposed to win that game,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said this week. “The good thing is we get another opportunity, and we’re still right in the mix.”

Indeed, the NFC East rivals meet again on Monday Night Football in a pivotal matchup for both teams. A Redskins’ win would catapult them back into the race for the division and wild card. A Giants’ win, however, would give them a commanding three-game division lead with four games left to play.

"We understand where our record is and what we have to do," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Our goal is to win the NFC East, and to do that, we have to play well."

And like the teams’ first encounter, big plays – both for and against – will be paramount for the Redskins, who will be hosting their first meaningful game in December since 2007.

Obviously, the defense must eliminate long plays from scrimmage for Eli Manning and Co. Another touchdown like Cruz’s – or Dez Bryant’s 85-yarder on Thanksgiving – could, in fact, end the Redskins' season.

On the other side of the ball, Washington’s offense will aim to extend a recent run of producing long, game-changing plays. In the past two games – season-saving victories over the Eagles and Cowboys – Robert Griffin III has thrown a team-record eight touchdowns. Four of those passes have come from 49 or more yards out. He had only two such scoring passes the previous nine contests.

New York’s defense, meantime, ranks 25th in passing yards allowed per game (253) and 30th in yards per reception (12.8). So the opportunity to go deep should be available to Griffin and his resurgent corps of receivers.

“We’re hitting things that we weren’t hitting earlier in the year,” Griffin said this week. “We’re able to do things were weren’t able to do [because] our receivers are playing at a high level. We’ve [also] added some elements to the passing game that make us more dangerous, so they’ll prepare for that and we'll see what happens.”

Here are the other storylines the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring throughout the game:

1-Rookie running back Alfred Morris needs only 18 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Only 10 running backs in franchise history have reached the plateau and it’s only been done 22 times by a Redskin. Morris would also become the first to accomplish the feat since Clinton Portis in 2008 and only the second rookie.

2-Takeways, as always, will be “crucial,” according to nose tackle Barry Cofield. In each of the past two victories, the Redskins defense has forced three turnovers. In the losses to Steelers and Panthers, the unit forced none.

“It’s definitely not a coincidence. For me, our two worse losses were the Pittsburgh and Carolina games,” Cofield said. “That’s a stat Coach Shanahan put in front of us. Turnovers can cover up out shortcomings on defense and are something that can propel the offense.”

3-Although Pierre Garçon lined up for only 29 of the offensive snaps against the Cowboys, the wide receiver’s contributions were undeniable. He had four receptions for 86 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown.

“It helped me to be more comfortable and more confident,” said Garçon, who added that his foot injury continues to improve and that he’s learning to cope with – and perform despite – the discomfort. “It’s getting better; there’s progress.”

4-Milestone watch: If London Fletcher’s ailing left ankle allows him to suit up, as expected, he’ll extend his league-leading consecutive games streak to 236. …If Griffin rushes for 65 yards, he’ll break Cam Newton’s record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback (706). …An interception for DeAngelo Hall would be his 40th and make him one of only six active players with as many. ...The Redskins will be seeking to end a 10-game losing streak at home on Monday night.

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

In case you missed it

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”