NFC East: Redskins-Giants 091309

Giants' CB Ross is inactive

December, 21, 2009
LANDOVER, Md. -- Giants cornerback Aaron Ross is out for tonight's game against the Redskins. We knew starting cornerback Corey Webster (knee) wasn't going to play but the Giants were holding out hope Ross (hamstring) would be able to go.

With Webster out, either Bruce Johnson or Kevin Dockery will start at cornerback opposite Terrell Thomas. Michael Johnson and Aaron Rouse will be the starting safeties. Here are the Giants' other inactives: Ramses Barden, D.J. Ware, Adam Koets, Kareem McKenzie, Sinorice Moss and Darcy Johnson.

The biggest surprise for the Skins is that defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin is inactive. That makes room for offensive tackle William Robinson to be active. Here are the rest of the Redskins' inactives: Emergency QB Richard Bartel, Kevin Barnes, Edwin Williams, Alvin Bowen, Curtis Gatewood, Paul Fanaika and Marko Mitchell.

Giants' D will buy the offense time to grow

September, 13, 2009
William Perlman/US Presswire
Osi Umenyiora races 37 yards for a touchdown after stripping the ball from Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. Umenyiora's return is a huge boost for the Giants.

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dressed in a pink golf shirt and brown linen pants, Justin Tuck stood in front of his locker Sunday evening and proclaimed that teammate Osi Umenyiora is "the prettiest defensive lineman ever."

Tuck said he based his comment on the fact that Umenyiora keeps his uniform clean no matter the conditions, pointing to the 2007 London Bowl as Exhibit A. On Sunday at Giants Stadium, Umenyiora used his knack for rarely ending up on the ground to tip the ball away from Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, scoop it off the ground and race 37 yards for a touchdown. The score put the Giants up 17-0 and sent a clear signal that this defensive line is poised to return to its past glory -- otherwise known as the 2007 postseason.
Week 1 Coverage
• Wojciechowski: Favre rusty, trusty
• Isaacson: Bears can't close deal
• Greenberg: Cutler not ready
• Sando: 49ers serving notice
• Mosley: Giants' D buys offense time
• Walker: Browns have long way to go
• Yasinskas: Bucs' DBs 'plastered'
• Seifert: Peterson definitely The Man
• Kuharsky: Colts exploit Jags' youth

"He's the best in the league at getting sacks without going to the ground," Tuck said of Umenyiora following the Giants' 23-17 win. "Now, I'm hoping people watch this film and focus on No. 72 and just leave me alone."

After the game, a few members of the Giants' defense dumped cold water on new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, the same man whose criticism of Umenyiora caused the player to stage a brief but costly preseason walkout. Some wondered how the transition from the exuberant Steve Spagnuolo to the taskmaster Sheridan would go, but for one afternoon this defense looked pretty familiar.

"It's tough to succeed a guy like Spags," Tuck said. "He was a crowd favorite and the leader of a Super Bowl championship defense, but [Sheridan's] doing a nice job."

Redskins running back Clinton Portis broke off a 34-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, but the Giants' defense made sure that wasn't going to set the tone. The Redskins only managed 51 yards rushing on their next 20 carries. And without the help of a running game, quarterback Jason Campbell was under siege the rest of the day. Late in the third quarter, Redskins safety LaRon Landry made a diving play to tip a pass away from Steve Smith, and DeAngelo Hall made the interception and returned it to the Giants' 12-yard line.

That's when the Giants' defensive line flexed its muscles. On first down, Tuck dropped Portis for a 6-yard loss. And on third-and-6 at the 7-yard line, Tuck used an outside move to sack Campbell and force a short field goal. Defensive tackle Chris Canty, who had missed all four preseason games with a torn hamstring, came flying up the middle to help collapse the pocket on the play.

It was obvious the Giants had too much firepower up front for the Redskins' offensive line to handle. Canty and another defensive tackle signed in free agency, Rocky Bernard, controlled the running game in the second half. And those fresh bodies across the defensive line had a lot to do with Tuck and Umenyiora combining for 2.5 sacks. Late in the 2008 season, I remember seeing Tuck and his teammates down on one knee between plays. On Sunday, some of the linemen were hopping around between plays, trying to whip up the crowd noise. Umenyiora said he had missed the competition.

"I can't even explain it to you," he said. "Sometimes when you're out there all the time, you kind of forget what it feels like to not be out there. Last year, I missed it and I'm happy I was able to come back this year."

As I've written several times, too many people tried to blame last season's December and January collapse on the absence of Plaxico Burress. He was certainly a vital part of the offense, but the lifeblood of this team is its defensive line. Quarterback Eli Manning fumbled once and threw an interception Sunday, but the Giants' defense gives him more margin for error than most quarterbacks. That will allow young playmakers such as Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks time to develop without feeling like the whole season hinges on them. Third-year wide receiver Steve Smith made several clutch plays Sunday, including an acrobatic 26-yard grab on third-and-5 midway through the fourth quarter.The Giants had a 20-10 lead at the time, and the catch by Smith pretty much ended any hopes of a Redskins comeback.

Manningham scored the first touchdown of his NFL career early in the second quarter when he took a short pass from Manning and then made three players miss on his way to a 30-yard touchdown. It has to give Manning confidence that his receivers made plays against a pretty talented secondary.

"Really, the touchdown pass was all him," Manning said of Manningham. "I checked to the play, it didn't work as planned, but he improvised and it turned out well. He made a guy miss and got the touchdown. I thought all the receivers played really well."

In what seemed like a head-scratching move, Tom Coughlin suited up six wide receivers and only three cornerbacks. But perhaps it was his confidence in the defensive front that made him comfortable with that decision. For the Giants to have a chance of returning to the Super Bowl, the defense will have to lead the way. On Sunday, that unit was up to the task.

Now, let's take a look at some of the other major storylines from Sunday's game:

Campbell was particularly upset about his fumble late in the first half: I spoke to Campbell for a few minutes after the game and there were two plays he definitely wanted back. On the fumble that Umenyiora returned for a touchdown, Campbell said he was in the process of checking down to one of his running backs when he felt the ball poked away. He said he was upset because he didn't sense that anyone was around him.

"It was a play where we were trying to get a down-the-field shot and the defense took it away, so by the time I'm trying to wait for my pass and get out so I can hit my check-down, they made a great play on the ball," Campbell said. "I guess as the quarterback, you just have to feel it a little bit more and slide up in the pocket and prevent that."

Campbell also was upset with himself that he checked into a running play on a third-and-8 in the second half. He said he lost track of how many yards the Redskins needed and that he should have checked into a pass play.

Is it just me or was Albert Haynesworth not that impressive? He was officially credited with four tackles, but I didn't feel like Haynesworth had a major impact. Manning had a lot of time in the pocket, and I didn't see Haynesworth getting a ton of penetration against the run. He also got dinged up a couple times and had to leave the field. He looked like a player who was not in great condition. Maybe it had a lot to do with the Giants double-teaming him, but for $41 million guaranteed, I wouldn't mind seeing a little more production. The Giants converted way too many third-and-longs. The Redskins caused turnovers and had a tremendous goal-line stand in the first half, but you have to seize those momentum plays and the Redskins didn't. I thought London Fletcher was outstanding.

Brandon Jacobs doesn't see the wisdom in the Cowboys wanting to host the Giants in the first regular-season game at Cowboys Stadium: "They should've put Detriot in there instead of us," Jacobs told me as he left the stadium Sunday evening.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 23, Redskins 17

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's been a year since the Redskins and Giants met in the Meadowlands to begin the season. But Sunday's outcome indicated that not all that much has changed.

The Giants raced out to a 17-0 lead before the Redskins finally showed signs of life late in the first half. In reality, it never seemed like the Redskins were truly in the game. Quarterback Jason Campbell wasn't awful Sunday, but he made two costly mistakes in the first half that the Skins couldn't overcome. And credit the Giants' defense with a dominating performance. After missing an entire season with a knee injury, defensive end Osi Umenyiora didn't waste any time making an impact. He caused a fumble by Campbell in the second quarter and then scooped it up and ran 37 yards for a touchdown. That play gave the Giants a seemingly comfortable lead.

The Redskins made a goal-line stand in the first half, but the offense couldn't feed off that momentum. Giants cornerback Corey Webster made a brilliant interception that thwarted one Redskins job in the first half. Overall, the Giants simply had too much firepower on defense. Because of injuries, Giants undrafted rookie cornerback Bruce Johnson had to play a vital role in the nickel package. But the Redskins weren't able to capitalize on the Giants' lack of depth at corner. The Redskins couldn't sustain their running game in the second half, in part, because new defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard wouldn't let them.

I thought it was a pretty inauspicious debut for Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. The Giants were getting rid of the ball so quickly that Haynesworth wasn't much of a factor. He limped off the field a couple of times and looked frustrated most of the afternoon. I'm sure he'll improve as he gets more comfortable in the defense, but there's not a lot of time for that.

Don' t let the final score fool you. The Giants had this one under control from the start.

Tom Coughlin will find plenty to complain about, but he won't apologize for a hard-fought win over a re-stocked division rival. I'll head down to the locker room and try to come up with some solid material. We'll talk soon.

Giants' Nicks leaves for X-rays

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks has gone to the locker room to have X-rays taken, according to the Giants. They did not specify what type of injury it was, but Nicks was limping off the field.

Steve Smith has responded in a big way today after an offseason full off questions regarding the Giants' receivers.

Heyer looks confused

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On the biggest play of the game for the Skins' offense, right tackle Stephon Heyer couldn't find a way to deal with defensive end Justin Tuck. You can tell Heyer has pretty good feet, but all the movement and games the Giants are playing at the line of scrimmage is throwing him off.

And welcome to the Meadowlands, Chris Canty. The Cowboys-turned-Giant blew that third-and-8 play up with his penetration up the middle. The sight of Canty flying by pretty much caused Campbell to double pump. That gave Tuck time to close in for the sack. Canty won't get a lot of sacks in this defense, but if he disrupts plays like that one, he'll earn his big money.

Smith answering the bell early

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's a great sign for the Giants' offense that Steve Smith is once again making clutch plays. He didn't have a great preseason, but he's made two catches in third-and-long situations. His 17-yard catch on third-and-6 was pretty difficult. Eli Manning had all day in the pocket.

So far, Albert Haynesworth isn't having much impact on this game. But LaRon Landry is. He's had two really bad plays and one really good one. No reason in the world for him to shove Brandon Jacobs after he's already run out of bounds. Cost his team an extra 15 yards.

The Giants are getting rid of the ball too soon for the Skins to do anything to Manning. London Fletcher's the only Redskins player who's making plays on a consistent basis right now. The one area where the Giants are struggling is in third-and-short situations. Not good. Especially when you're inside the 5-yard line.

Injury update: Ware has dislocated elbow

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Giants running back Danny Ware dislocated his elbow on the opening kickoff return and he'll be out the rest of the game. Ware's the third running back on the depth chart, but he was expected to play an important role on special teams. Tough break for the Giants.

Giants' Coughlin: Nicks will play important role

September, 12, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

NEW YORK -- After his slow start in training camp and subsequent injury, there was some thought that Giants first-rounder Hakeem Nicks might not make much of an impact early in the season. But coach Tom Coughlin put that talk to rest during his Friday news conference when he was asked whether Nicks would play a "major role" in the offense.

"He's playing it right now," Coughlin said. "He's involved right now in everything we're doing. We basically have four guys that will do a lot of rotating and a lot of playing."

And those four guys will likely be Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Nicks. I'm sure Derek Hagan will be active because of his special teams work, so that will probably leave Ramses Barden and Sinorice Moss on the inactive list. I think Nicks will be starting by the third or fourth game.

What do you guys think?

Redskins' Zorn won't babysit Thomas

September, 12, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

NEW YORK -- Greetings from Manhattan, where there's been a steady drizzle throughout the afternoon and early evening. I'm about to head over to a famous Giants bar in Midtown to start preparing in earnest for tomorrow's game. But before I do that, let me point you in the direction of something that showed up on The Washington Post's Web site Saturday.

Apparently Redskins wide receiver Devin Thomas told reporters after the third preseason game that returning kicks helps him get into the flow of a game sooner than usual. Seems pretty innocuous to me, but coach Jim Zorn took exception to Thomas' mindset when he was reminded of the comment this week.

"I think it helps a guy to get the ball, but I'm hoping that he can do it ... maybe somebody just has to smack him on the sideline," Zorn said. "You know, something to get him fired up. I don't want to put (additional duties) on a guy to always have (him) ready. He's going to kind of hold us hostage, 'Well, you didn't put me on the kickoff, so that's why I didn't play well.' That doesn't make any sense."

And as we've talked about recently, you're starting to see how frustrated this organization is with Thomas. I had a long talk with quarterback Jason Campbell about Thomas recently. Campbell's very complimentary of Thomas' athleticism, but says that he needs to show more maturity in his approach to the game. I sense that both Zorn and Campbell are starting to lose their patience with Thomas. It's not like those guys have a lot of time to turn this organization around -- and they want all hands on deck.