New York Giants: 5 Players to Watch vs. Washington Redskins
Certainly a game between two teams that have a won-loss record below .500 has to be one of those games that probably won’t generate anywhere near the interest it would have had the Giants won last week against the Cowboys.
However, if you’re one of those people who likes to look at the glass as being half-full, then a fitting theme for this week’s game, in my opinion, is the “Redemption Bowl.”
No, neither team has a realistic chance at making the playoffs, despite what the math says. Each club needs far too many things to happen in order for them to be playing in January, given how the NFL playoff seeding is currently taking shape.
So no, it won’t be that kind of redemption, at least not for the Giants.
Instead, there are players on both sides that, for whatever the reason, haven’t had a solid season, who will be looking to prove that they are still viable contributors and are worthy of a larger or return role in the team’s plans.
So without any further delay, here is the list of five Giants to watch in this week’s “Redemption Bowl.”
Running Back Peyton Hillis
If you’re only as good as your last game played, then Peyton Hillis might be in trouble.
Last active against Oakland on Nov. 10, Hillis rushed for 21 yards on five carries, and failed to catch the lone pass thrown his way.
However, that wasn’t the worst of Hillis’ game that week.
Primarily lining up as the third down back, he gave up a sack in pass protection when he tried to cut his man rather than take him head on.
That blunder, in part, contributed to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) grading him out as a -1.6 that week.
Hillis, who otherwise has 127 yards on 43 carries and one touchdown in three games for the Giants, also lost a fumble in that game.
That’s probably a reason why, despite being fully healthy, the team has opted for the production of Jacobs,’ and his season-long knee issues, when it comes time to hand out game-day uniforms.
With Jacobs already declared out, Hillis is expected to be active. How much of a chance he actually gets to redeem himself remains to be seen, as the coaches might stick with Andre Brown and work Michael Cox into the mix
Whether he gets the opportunities to redeem himself with the ball in his hands is another story, as the Giants might decide to expand Michael Cox’s role beyond kickoff returns in relief of Andre Brown.
Defensive End Damontre Moore
If you've been waiting for rookie Damontre Moore to get on the field in extended action on defense, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has some good news for you.
"We’ll play Moore; we’ll get him ready," he said.
However if you are hoping that Moore starts in place of the ailing Jason Pierre-Paul, who's already been declared out of Sunday's game, that doesn't sound like it's going to be the case.
The reason, according to Fewell, is that the Redskins offense is probably not the type of scheme against which you want to have a rookie that missed as much practice time as Moore did earlier in the year, cut his teeth.
"This is a difficult offense for any defensive end because it is a read option offense, it is a play action offense," said Fewell.
"They do a number of things to make the defensive ends think, so it is quite difficult."
That's why defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins will probably see a good number of snaps at defensive end while Moore will probably be used sparingly in obvious pass rushing situations.
"We’ll also play Jenkins and move him outside a little bit," said Fewell." Obviously we have a plan that we’ll do a couple different things in certain situations."
Therefore, it doesn’t sound like Moore will get a lot of snaps, but he's certain to get more than the one he's had over the last two weeks.
If he does well with the snaps he does get, then he'll probably continue to see an increase in his snaps moving forward, with an eye toward playing a bigger role next season.
Cornerback Jayron Hosley
Jayron Hosley, in his second season, has seemingly spent more time inactive than he has in the defense.
In Week 4 vs. the Chiefs, Hosley suffered a hamstring injury that cost him the next five games. He finally returned to action against green Bay on Nov. 17, where he was limited primarily to special teams.
Against Dallas last week, Hosley was given a few snaps in relief of Trumaine McBride. With Corey Webster (ankle) also declared out for Sunday’s game, Hosley will get the start.
He apparently did well enough to where head coach Tom Coughlin was not afraid to reveal that there was a “strong possibility” of Hosley replacing McBride in the starting lineup this weekend.
Then again, the Giants don’t seem to have many options as in addition to McBride, Corey Webster was also declared out. New York will go into Sunday’s game with just four “healthy’ cornerbacks—Hosley, Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas and Charles James.
Art Stapleton of the Bergen Record notes that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has simplified things for the defensive secondary to accommodate the experience levels of Hosley and James:
Terrell Thomas told me #NYG simplified things this wk in secondary in order to make assignments less confusing for Hosley and/or James— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) November 29, 2013
Thomas: "A lot of what you have to do against them is with your eyes + if you're thinking too much, what you see gets more confusing" #NYG— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) November 29, 2013
If there is concern on the coaches' part about Hosley being able to contribute this week, you wouldn't know it by listening to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
"Jayron has good cover skills, I think he’s a good matchup for some of the quick guys that they have in there in their lineup, so I don’t think we’ll miss a beat from that standpoint as far as the quickness, and the matchups are concerned," Fewell said.
Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks
It’s been a really weird season for receiver Hakeem Nicks.
In the midst of his contract year, Nicks’ current production thus far can be best described as pedestrian: 42 receptions for 620 yards and no touchdowns.
He also developed that abdomen injury in the middle of last week that led to him being listed as inactive by head coach Tom Coughlin after the two men spoke last Sunday morning.
Per Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger, Coughlin told Nicks that he hadn’t seen enough from the fifth-year receiver that week in practice to warrant him playing in the game.
"I felt like I was (healthy enough to play)," Nicks, who practiced last Thursday and Friday in a limited role, told Orr. "But obviously I understand where (Coughlin) was coming from. I didn’t show him enough that week in practice."
This week, Nicks was again limited in practice, the difference from this week to last being that he was able to work all three days.
“I think I showed them enough this week in practice, so I think everything will be good to go,” said Nicks, who added that he felt “real good.”
Nicks, who has denied being frustrated over how his contract season has gone, denied that he had any trepidation about playing through his latest injury.
“I’m always eager to get on the field. You all know, you’ve been covering me for five seasons now. That’s just me being me. I always want to be on the field, I always want to help my team, I always want to make plays and contribute the best way possible,” he said.
Thus far, he hasn’t really contributed much, certainly not like how he did in 2011 when he had a career-high 1,192 yards on 76 receptions, with seven touchdowns in the regular season.
Giants’ fans can only hope that starting this week, Nicks starts to play catchup on his production, even though the team’s playoff aspirations remain on life support.
Defensive Tackle Markus Kuhn
It’s been more than a year since German-born Markus Kuhn the team’s seventh-round draft pick last season, has been on the field.
That’s because Kuhn tore his ACL in Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals, an injury that put him on a year-long odyssey that included spending all of training camp and the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Rather than leave Kuhn on the shelf for the rest of 2013, they found a way to activate him,.
this week, they are hoping that his fresh legs and high motor lend something to a run defense that’s allowing an average of 98.8 rushing yards per game this season, the seventh-best showing in the NFL, per Team Rankings.
It won’t be easy, however, as this week, the Giants will face Alfred Morris, whose 970 rushing yards on 195 carries are third best in the league, behind leaders LeSean McCoy of the Eagles (1,009 yards) and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings (997 yards).
The good news is that the Giants run defense held both McCoy and Peterson to less than 100 yards when they faced both runners earlier this season, which should help their confidence.
The Giants are hoping that whatever snaps they can get out of Kuhn, whom defensive coordinator said “gives us that added body inside,” are enough to help contribute to the effort to contain Morris.