Five keys to the Redskins-Giants game plus a prediction:
1. When I’m looking at this game I keep on going back to Eli Manning’s ball security. He was a turnover machine in the Giants’ first six games, throwing 15 interceptions. In the five games since then he’s thrown two. Over his career he hasn’t been as bad as protecting the ball as he was earlier this year but hasn’t been as good as he has lately. How he does on Sunday night will go a long way towards determining the outcome.
2. The Redskins, of course, have their own streaky QB and Robert Griffin III has been going downhill lately. In his last six games he’s had three horrid games (vs. the Broncos, Eagles and 49ers), one solid game against the Vikings and two excellent performances against the Bears and Chargers. Not at all coincidentally, the only games there that the Redskins won are the two where he played well. My brilliant analysis of this is that Griffin needs to play well for the Redskins to win.
3. Victor Cruz is by far the Giants’ leading receiver with 60 catches for 851 yards. You have to think that he will primarily be DeAngelo Hall’s responsibility. Cruz was a handful for the Redskins last year; in the two games he caught 12 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. The TD came in the last two minutes of the game at Met Life Stadium and gave the Giants the win.
4. Everyone justifiably complains about the inability of the Redskins to get to the quarterback. But they do have 27 sacks on the year. The Giants, who won two Super Bowls based largely on their ability to rack up sacks, are even worse. They have a mere 18 sacks so far. End Jason Pierre-Paul, who totaled 23 sacks in 2011-2012, has been battling injuries all year and he has just two sacks. JPP has not missed a game this year but he has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.
5. In addition to Pierre-Paul, the Giants will be missing another starter in cornerback Trumaine McBride. Also out are CB Corey Webster (ankle) and RB Brandon Jacobs (knee). The Redskins are likely to get TE Jordan Reed back from a concussion that sidelined him against the 49ers. However, they could be without fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) again and Niles Paul is also questionable after missing practice all week due to an illness. In addition, the Redskins placed starting defensive end Stephen Bowen on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Prediction: The Giants appear to be the more banged-up team but playing an opponent with multiple injuries did not help the Redskins against the Vikings. Will RG3 be on or off? I flipped a coin and came up with . . .
Redskins 28, Giants 21
A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year.
A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all.
- The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded.
- We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now.
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- Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above.
- Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react.
- The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous.
- Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson.
- Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player.
- Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
- Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing.
- The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold.
- The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
- To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long.
MORE: THE BIZARRE SITUATION BETWEEN THE RAVENS AND RYAN GRANT
- A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid.
- What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore.
- Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up.
- Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre.
- Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due.
- I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done.
- Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying.
- So is Bennie Logan. Just saying.
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Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 17, 40 days before the NFL draft.
The Redskins week that was
A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.
Redskins and NFL free agency tracker—I started this a week ago today and it grew to 3,500 words. The problem was there wasn’t much to add by the time that free agency actually started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The legal tampering period or, as I dubbed it to avoid an oxymoron being used, the “permitted tampering-like activities period” was when all of the news happened. By the time actual free agency opened on Wednesday afternoon it pretty much was all over. Thanks to those of you who followed along.
Zach Brown agrees to terms with Redskins, per source—Since Kirk Cousins’ departure was a foregone conclusion, Brown was the Redskins’ most important free agent. His retention provides continuity in the defense and that will benefit both the team and Brown. His contract (preliminary numbers three years, $24 million) showed that the Redskins are willing to invest some money in the inside linebacker spot for the first time since Joe Gibbs brought in London Fletcher to play middle linebacker in 2007.
Report: Kirk Cousins to sign epic new deal with Vikings—We heard you, folks. The collective voice of the fans who visit NBC Sports Washington on a regular basis let us know that you were not interested in a lot of posts about the Cousins saga that was unfolding in Minnesota. So this was one of very few articles on Cousins that we posted even though Cousins posts have been popular, but with the vast majority of traffic coming from out of town. So, you’re welcome. It should be noted that we will write about Cousins in the future but infrequently.
Redskins officially announce 5-year deal with WR Richardson—He was the opening act for the Alex Smith press conference, and he handled himself very well. If Richardson is even moderately successful I think he will be a major fan favorite.
Tweet of the week
Here is what fans need to know—a team can afford to do virtually anything it wants in free agency in a given year. If they wanted to the Redskins could restructure deals and sign all of their free agents to contracts that have very small first-year cap hits, creating room to sign the Honey Badger or Suh. The problems come in later years when the cap space you pushed back starts to pile up. The Redskins generally do squeeze free agent contracts into relatively small cap spaces. For example, Richardson’s deal average $8 million per year but the 2018 cap hit is just $4 million. But they don’t like to restructure deals to push money back into later years. That created problems during the Vinny Cerrato years.
Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.
—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 30
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 132
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 176
In case you missed it