Redskins

A puzzling pair of games for QB Manning, Giants

201211041902685371710-p2.jpeg

A puzzling pair of games for QB Manning, Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) For seven weeks, the New York Giants had one of the most balanced and lethal offensive units in the NFL.

Run, pass, early, late, you name it. The defending Super Bowl champions could do it all, ranking first in big-play ability (plays of 20 yards or better).

Then, out of nowhere, quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants (6-3) began to struggle offensively, especially in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. And as they search for answers, with a trip to Cincinnati on tap, their lead in the NFC East isn't so comfortable, despite what the numbers say.

In each of the last two games, the offense has become bogged down. After completing better than 63 percent of his passes over seven games (169 of 265), Manning has converted at a clip of 47 (25 of 53) the last two, a span in which the Giants are 1-1.

Of course, the struggles of the rest of the division have masked New York's lack of production. As Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas - all with just three wins headed into the Eagles' matchup with New Orleans on Monday - continue to plod along, the Giants are still in first place. But with two division losses already, New York knows it needs to right the ship ... soon.

A more consistent running game will help. Leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw had 316 yards combined in wins over Cleveland and San Francisco, but in the three games since, Bradshaw has mustered only 169.

So what gives? Is it time for a November swoon?

``We're going to continue to stay positive and win some games at this time of the year. It's just a matter of us getting on the same page. I'm not worried,'' receiver Victor Cruz said. ``We just have to attack the problem areas and get back on track, beginning this week.''

After the Bengals (3-5), the Giants will have a bye. So, there's an opportunity for a little momentum switch. After all, Cincinnati has lost four in a row.

``No one likes to lose or play poorly,'' Manning said. ``We have to see where we can do better and above everything, you have to look at yourself first. I'm responsible for a lot of it. I'm where it starts. Our offense is not playing up to its potential. We didn't execute as well as we hoped to.''

Manning was asked if the offense is in a slump.

``Whatever you want to call it, that's fine,'' Manning said. ``It's just not playing good football. I have to make better throws and not leave some plays out there. I have to make better decisions with the ball. I didn't play well last night. There's no hiding it. I have to play better. That's all I'm worried about. The only way to get the bad taste out of our mouths is to play better football offensively.

``I know I'll bounce back and start to play better.''

Giants coach Tom Coughlin wanted to hear no part of a November slump.

``You can talk about that all you want,'' Coughlin said. ``The facts are the facts. I didn't see anything like that at the end of last season.''

The Giants, who were 7-7 at one point last season, went on to win their last six games, including the Super Bowl over New England. But the coach isn't worried about last season anymore.

``I can't explain all of the problems,'' Coughlin said. ``I don't think much has changed. We're just not clicking the way we were. We were the No. 1 big-play team and now two weeks later, we have nothing to show for it.''

After watching film Monday, Coughlin noticed that there were some problems between Manning and his receivers in terms of broken routes. Most notably, Cruz and rookie Rueben Randle broke off from original routes, leading to incompletions.

``There's no way that you can have a lack of communication and be successful in the passing game,'' Coughlin said. ``That has to be ironed out.''

Manning's quarterback rating on Sunday was 41.1.

``We haven't had the ability to hit the deep ball like we had been doing and the way we like,'' tight end Martellus Bennett said. ``It seems like the other team has more people in coverage, but that's about it. We have to make those plays.''

Members of the offensive line believe the last two weeks amounted to nothing more than a hiccup.

``We just need to get our confidence back. It's not a time to think this is a new trend,'' center David Baas said. ``I always feel that we have the ability to go down the field and score. It just didn't happen the way it usually does.''

Cruz, who has caught 57 passes for 717 yards and seven touchdowns, knows things will change for the better soon.

``We have a very good offensive football team,'' he said. ``We're able to do a lot of good things. We just have to get back on the right track and understand we have the ability to keep doing good things. We have to keep going forward and prepare ourselves the right way.''

And struggles or not, everyone feels that Manning will bounce back and regain his form.

``He has the ability,'' Coughlin said. ``I have faith in who he is and how he works. He's resilient. He plays with pride. I know he'll come bouncing back.''

---

NOTES: Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, who sat out Sunday, said his hamstring felt much better and thought he could practice if the team had a workout Monday. He will wait to test it Wednesday after a scheduled day off. ... The Giants are 1-1 vs. the AFC North.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

redkins_d-line_vs_sd_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming week, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Additions: Daron Payne (drafted in first round), Tim Settle (drafted in fifth round)
Departures: Terrell McClain (released)

Starters: Payne (NT), Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis
Other roster locks: Stacy McGee, Anthony Lanier, Settle
On the bubble: Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor

How the defensive line compares

To the rest of the NFL: We are going to have to see about this. Over the last couple of years the D-line has been transformed from an aging group into one where youth is in good supply. Ioannidis is the oldest of the starters at age 24. Allen is 23 and Payne just turned 21 in May. It looks like there is great potential there but we haven’t seen enough of it on the field to make solid comparisons to other lines around the league. Allen missed 10 games of his rookie year with an injury and Ioannidis missed two and was hampered in a few more with a broken hand. Payne, of course, is a rookie. Let’s check back in late October and see how things are going then. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  The primary reason that the line should be significantly better this year is the presence of Payne and Settle on the roster. That means that it is very unlikely that Hood will have to play nose tackle. He has been the starter there for the past two years, forced there by injuries. Jim Tomsula that Hood is not well suited to play the nose. So they have an improvement there. If they get a mostly healthy season out of Allen and if Ioannidis continue to improve this will be the best defensive line they have had since moving to the 3-4 defensive in 2010. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: As noted, Payne just turned 21. He seems to have a rare understanding of the game for a rookie. You often see rookies just trying to survive on physical ability early one. Payne has plenty of that, but he also seems to realize that strength and ability alone won’t let him thrive at this level. He pays close attention to his technique during drills, making sure he does things the right way the first time. If he builds on this for the next year or so the Redskins could have a legitimate star. 

Most to prove: Since so many Redskins fans are accustomed to seeing veteran defensive linemen the team signs as free agents play poorly, they automatically put McGee in the “bust” category. But many of his teammates said he was the most consistent player on the line last year. It’s safe to say that he played better than the popular perception. Next year, he will carry a $4.8 million salary cap number and like most players who are not starters but making good salaries, he will need to play well enough to justify that cap number.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins did not expect Settle to be available in the fifth round and he was too good to pass up when he was still on the board. He should get some opportunity as a rookie. He is likely to be the only other nose tackle on the roster besides Payne (sorry, but the numbers make it unlikely that Phil Taylor will make the roster). That could have him active on many game days and that usually means getting some snaps in the rotation. We will see what he can do with his chances. 

Bottom line: The Redskins were last in the league in rushing defense in 2017. It wasn’t all on the line—in particular, injuries to the inside linebackers hurt a lot—but the simple fact is that the organization long neglected the line. The philosophy was to create a patchwork unit from aging free agents. That has changed now with three homegrown players set to start and Settle and 2016 undrafted free agent find Anthony Lanier providing reserve help. It’s going to be a better unit, no question. But improvement over the last several years is a low bar and we’ll find out if this develops into a quality line over the next few months. 

Quote-unquote

Greg Manusky on Payne:

Payne is doing a great job. He’s trying to get acclimated to some of the calls, hasn’t had a lot of mental errors. He’s done a great job. Physical player.

2018 position outlook series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

 

Quick Links

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually exist. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclomations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!