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Need to Know: Can the Redskins put together a winning effort against the Giants?

Need to Know: Can the Redskins put together a winning effort against the Giants?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, September 24, the day the Redskins travel to play the Giants.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

—The Redskins likely will keep Chris Culliver on Odell Beckham Jr., although they could line up DeAngelo Hall or Bashaud Breeland, too against the sensational second-year receiver as well. They will try to mix things up and get physical with him. But the best way to defend against him will be to have Eli Manning running for his life all night or flat on his back. Manning knows how to avoid pressure; he was sacked on 4.7 percent of his pass plays last year compared to the NFL average of 6.3 percent. But starting left tackle Ereck Flowers is doubtful with an ankle injury so perhaps Ryan Kerrigan can have a good night chasing after Manning.

—The Giants could have won both of their first two games, as you may have heard. Both games were good efforts by the Giants for about 58 minutes. You could even say winning efforts. The question is, are the Giants good enough to string together three winning efforts in a row. Are they due to break through and get a win? Or are they due for a flat effort? Of course you can ask the same thing about the Redskins, who played well enough to beat the Dolphins in Week 1 before winning against the Rams. The Giants did have two three-game winning streaks last year while the 2014 Redskins could muster only a single, modest two-game streak.

—I think that Jay Gruden had honestly planned to keep Alfred Morris as his primary workhorse running back. But that could change. It may turn out that Matt Jones is just too good to keep on the bench. Don’t get me wrong, Morris will get snaps and he probably has a few 100-yard games left in him. But Jones’ rare combination of speed, power, and pass-catching ability can’t spend too much time on the bench. Morris and Jones were about even in terms of rushing attempts against the Rams. I think you’ll see it take a permanent tilt in Jones’ favor starting tonight.

—The Giants are pretty banged up. Five players are listed as out, including three starters. In addition, starting left tackle Ereck Flowers is doubtful with an ankle injury. The Redskins aren’t the picture of health with DeSean Jackson still out and ILB Perry Riley questionable with a calf injury. But going into tonight it looks like the Giants have the worst of it.

—This is a short week and I’m traveling to New Jersey today so I won’t have time to do a full prediction post, so here we go. I do think that the Redskins will have every chance to win this game. The Giants aren’t very good to begin with and they have all those injuries on top of that. But even without those key players, Eli can launch one to Beckham and they can put points on the board in a hurry. The visitors will need to keep them off the field as much as possible by controlling the ball on the ground and chewing up clock. The Redskins have shown that they can go on the road and beat a division team in prime time. They did it against the Cowboys last year and they will do it again tonight.

Redskins 24, Giants 17
(predictions 1-1 on the season)

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Giants 8:25 p.m., NFL Network/CBS

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Falcons 17; Redskins @ Jets 24

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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

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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).”