When New York Giants tight end Kaden Smith pulled in his second touchdown of the day, an overtime score that gave the lowly Giants their second win over the Redskins but just their fourth win overall in 2019, many Redskins fans breathed a sigh of relief.
That's because with the Redskins loss, their twelfth of the season, coupled with a Dolphins Week 16 victory over the Bengals, are firmly in the driver's seat for the No. 2 overall pick come next April's draft. A loss in Week 17 to the Cowboys would clinch the second pick.
With the Bengals expected to take LSU signal-caller Joe Burrow No. 1 overall, the Redskins, should they keep the pick and not trade back, can select Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who many draft experts have deemed as a generational talent. But if Sunday's 41-35 loss to the Giants was any indication of things to come for the Redskins, the Burgundy and Gold defense will need a lot more than just Chase Young in order to compete at a high level.
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had a career afternoon Sunday against Washington. The rookie finished 28 of 42 for 352 yards and five touchdowns, a career-high. Jones, who entered Sunday's contest with 21 turnovers, did not turn over the ball once, his first NFL game of such.
"He played pretty heroic," Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think he's only going to get better because he's a very, very talented guy that works hard. He had a good performance."
Sure, one could make the excuse that Washington's secondary was depleted. The Redskins were without their top three cornerbacks, as Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau were out with hamstring injuries. Jimmy Moreland was placed on IR earlier this week. Danny Johnson missed part of Sunday's contest with injury, and at times, Washington was playing both Coty Sensabaugh and Tayvon Webster, two cornerbacks they signed this week.
In the NFL, where the cliche 'next man up' is often used. No one stepped up in the secondary for the Redskins, as Jones was able to have his way with Washington all afternoon.
"We didn't get enough pressure on him," Redskins safety Landon Collins said on why the Redskins defense struggled. "He was sitting back there, kind of picking us apart."
The Redskins sacked Jones just once on Sunday.
If possible, Washington's run defense on Sunday was arguably worse than its pass defense. Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-high 189 yards, including a fantastic 67-yard scamper down the right sideline. He also finished with 90 yards receiving and a 33-yard touchdown through the air as well.
"He's a premier back. We talked about him all week long that was the number one goal and must four our defense in this game to really contain [Barkley]," interim head coach Bill Callahan said. "We didn't accomplish that. We didn't make the plays we needed to make on defense against them."
The Redskins struggled to contain Barkley all afternoon, and frankly, have struggled to slow the All-Pro running back since he entered the league last year. A year ago, Barkley ran for 170 yards in front of the fans at FedEx Field. Washington avoided No. 26 earlier this season, as he was sidelined with an ankle injury in Week 4.
"He's very good, very talented. Extraordinary," Collins said on Barkley, his former teammate. "I tried to tell our guys as much as I can about how to play against him. He's a smart player. I would say his rookie year, he was doing everything off his ability. Now, he's becoming a smart player, a smart running back, understanding how to set things up for himself. He's definitely one of the best."
"I think you see how good and special of a player he is, the different things he can do to affect the game," Jones said on his running back.
After falling behind two touchdowns late in the third quarter, many chalked Sunday's contest up as a Giants victory. But Washington, led by Case Keenum who replaced an injured Dwayne Haskins, rallied in the fourth quarter. Keenum led a 99-yard touchdown drive in the final moments of the game to force overtime.
But the Giants won the coin toss and marched right down the field. The drive culminated in Smith's touchdown, and the Redskins offense never saw the field in the extra frame.
Sunday's defensive performance proved what plenty of people already speculated: the Redskins defense needs a lot of help. Outside of Dunbar, cornerback has been a significant issue for Washington. The Redskins could use an upgrade at free safety, too, as Montae Nicholson has been inconsistent and struggled significantly at times. Cole Holcomb has shown some promise, but inside linebacker could also be a position the Redskins address this offseason.
The defensive line, the supposed strength of the Redskins defense, sacked Jones just once and struggled significantly stopping the run. Defensive lineman Daron Payne gave a very honest assessment when asked why the defense has struggled so much this season.
"If I knew, we probably wouldn't be like this," he said.
Washington has allowed 376 yards per game, the eighth-worst mark in the NFL. They've allowed opponents to convert a league-worst 49 percent of their third downs. They've allowed young, struggling quarterbacks such as Jones and Sam Darnold to have career days against them.
Callahan, who likely has just one week remaining with his job title as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, dismissed any notion of benefitting in the future from losing today.
"I mean, if you were at today's game, you would think to say there's no way these two teams are even thinking about [the draft]," Callahan said when asked the about the difference between fans and coaches on the outcome of today's game. "Let's give the players in our league credit and understand that they're being paid professionally."
Collins echoed his head coach's statement.
"We never think that way," Collins said about losing for a better draft picks. "We don't care about draft picks and when we [get to draft] and all that. That's not our concern. Our concern is playing for this organization and trying to win."
With the loss, Washington will likely have the choice of taking Chase Young in the draft if they choose to. But no matter how good Young may be, the Redskins need to make major changes on the defensive side of the ball in order to put together a playoff-caliber team in 2020.
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