New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins: Breaking Down Washington's Game Plan

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New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins: Breaking Down Washington's Game Plan
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Beating a division rival is the best way to restore pride amid a failing season. That is the situation the Washington Redskins and New York Giants are in this week.

A Washington win will be predicated on the defense's ability to challenge Giants wide receivers in man coverage and get pressure through the middle against quarterback Eli Manning.

On offense, the Redskins must trust what they do best, which is run the ball. If workhorse Alfred Morris doesn't exceed 20 carries, the inevitable criticism of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be justified.

The embattled play-caller should take inspiration from how well the Dallas Cowboys ran the ball against the Giants in Week 12.

Rush Offense: 20-25 carries for Alfred Morris

The Giants have been solid against the run this season, ranking seventh in the NFL. But that won't mean they'll be happy to see Alfred Morris for the first time in 2013.

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Alfred Morris must be turned loose against the Giants.

Morris rushed for 244 yards in two games against Big Blue in 2012. Many of his best runs came on the trademark zone stretch play of head coach Mike Shanahan's famed rushing schemes.

That same formula can work again, since the Giants struggled against the play in Week 12. Cowboys runner DeMarco Murray gained 30 yards off a stretch run in the second quarter.

The play began with the Cowboys supplementing their offensive line with three tight ends. They then ran a stretch play to the right, with their overloaded line shifting that way.

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A three-tight end set can overwhelm the Giants defensive front.

The extra blockers helped create double-teams and allowed linemen to quickly move to the linebacker level of the defense. This is the crucial element in the zone-blocking scheme the Redskins run.

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The Cowboys quickly got blockers to the second level of the defense.

Murray was able to make one quick cut to attack the cutback lane created by the stretch blocking. This one cut-and-go dynamic is another vital characteristic in zone running, and it caused the Giants problems all game.

In this example, Murray hit his cut, while the lane was secured by linemen at the linebacker level cutting off pursuit defenders.

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One quick cut behind stretch blocking beats the Giants run defense.

Murray was then able to make it to the secondary thanks to the inability of Giants defenders to shed blocks from tight ends. He completed one of several big gains the Cowboys produced from stretch running.

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Giants defenders struggle to get off blocks downfield.

This 30-yard dash looked identical to the signature play of the Shanahan offense. The Redskins have frequently used multiple-tight end sets to free Morris and Roy Helu Jr. on stretch plays in recent games.

With a pair of natural zone-runners to call on and the type of blocking scheme that can undermine the Giants, the Washington ground game should dominate this Sunday.

A consistent rushing attack will also keep the New York pass rush at bay and prevent quarterback Robert Griffin III from taking another heavy beating.

Pass Offense: Counter the inside push in pass protection

The last three games have been a nightmare for the Washington offensive line. The group has allowed 12 sacks and numerous hits on Griffin.

The Giants are no longer the feared pass-rushing force they were when they won two Super Bowls in four years. They have only 18 sacks this term, the second-worst mark in the NFL.

But one area where they can give Griffin and the Washington O-line trouble is through the middle. While ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have deteriorated, defensive tackles like Linval Joseph have emerged as a force.

The fourth-year pro has teamed with veteran Cullen Jenkins to form a nasty tandem inside. They are a dangerous contrast of styles as pass-rushers.

Joseph plays with raw power, while Jenkins has the takeoff speed and quick moves that belie his 32 years. The Giants got four sacks against the Cowboys in Week 12, with Joseph and Jenkins combining for three of them.

Joseph got the first of the game with a classic bull rush in the opening quarter. Notice how far back Joseph (97) powered guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) into quarterback Tony Romo.

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Linval Joseph creates an awesome push inside.

That awesome push inside obliterated the pocket around Romo, allowing Joseph to notch the sack.

Later in the game, Jenkins used a quick swat-and-swim move to get around rookie center Travis Frederick. This nifty use of hands combined with deceptive foot speed allowed Jenkins to envelop Romo for another sack.

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Cullen Jenkins is still quick along the interior.

Given the problems Washington has had with inside pressure, Joseph and Jenkins present a real problem. The Redskins couldn't stand up to a strong interior push against the San Francisco 49ers last week.

Near the halfway point of the third quarter, a bull rush from defensive end Tony Jerrod-Eddie forced Griffin to flee the pocket and eventually throw the ball away on third down.

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The Washington O-line struggles against power on the inside.

Jerrod-Eddie completely dominated right guard Chris Chester in a staggering physical mismtach. But he wasn't the only member of San Francisco's defensive front to win inside.

On the final play of the same quarter, Griffin was sacked by outside linebacker Ahmad Brook for a loss of 11 yards. The play was set up by pressure through the interior by rush end Aldon Smith.

His speed and strength were too much for left guard Kory Lichtensteiger. That sudden pressure through the middle prevented Griffin from stepping up to elude the rush from Brooks.

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Speed inside has also been a problem.

Smith is usually an outside pass-rusher, but 49ers defensive guru Vic Fangio moved him inside. This is a ploy the Giants still use with Tuck, Pierre-Paul and even Mathias Kiwanuka.

If the Redskins can't control the inside pressure, then outside pass-rushers will eventually take over, just as Smith and Brooks did on Monday night.

Washington must control the Giants interior rushers, but the Redskins defense should also manufacture some inside pressure of its own.

Pass Defense: Challenge Eli Manning with pressure through the middle and man coverage

The Giants may have rushed for 202 yards last week, but the key to stopping their offense remains stifling Manning and his receivers. The Washington defense can do that by combining press man coverage with strong pressure inside.

That is just how the Cowboys did it on two pivotal plays in the third quarter. On third down, the Dallas defense played man coverage all across the formation with a single-high safety behind it.

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Man coverage challenges an unproven group of receivers to win.

They were challenging Manning's receivers to win one-on-one matchups, an area where the Giants passing game has struggled all season.

Those struggles continued on this play. No receiver was able to get free from the plastering techniques used by the Cowboys defensive backs.

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The Giants don't win against press man coverage.

This is something that has blighted Big Blue's offense in recent games. With Victor Cruz experiencing a dip in production and Hakeem Nicks in and out of the lineup, wideouts like Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy have routinely failed to escape single coverage.

Manning's pass was soon rejected by the physical press coverage played in the Dallas secondary.

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Plastering technique by defensive backs has frustrated Big Blue's passing game.

He was forced into a quick throw by immediate pressure through the middle. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and rush end DeMarcus Ware closed in around Manning, causing a hurried throw into tight coverage.

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Pressure on the inside forces rushed throws into tight coverage.

The Giants went for it on fourth down but were stymied by this same formula. This time the Cowboys showed a Cover 2 Man look, with single coverage underneath and a pair of deep safeties behind it.

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Another man coverage look challenges Giants receivers.

At the snap, the Dallas defensive backs again clamped onto Big Blue receivers. The Giants pass-catchers couldn't get free to give Manning a viable target.

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The New York receivers aren't beating man coverage.

He was again rushed into a difficult throw thanks to strong pressure inside. Hatcher and Ware again collapsed the pocket and forced the ball to come out early. 

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Interior pressure again forced Manning into an ill-advised throw.

It went into double coverage on the outside, where the Cowboys used a deep safety to bracket Cruz. That left Manning with little room to aim, and his pass fell incomplete.

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A perfect double-team bracket around Victor Cruz.

Cruz is still the main danger man in Manning's receiving corps, and double-teaming the big-play specialist would be a smart move for the Redskins.

They know what damage Cruz can do if he is allowed to get free. The team found that out the hard way in Week 7 last season.

The Redskins must contain Cruz.

This time, Washington must combine smart and physical coverage with consistent inside pressure. The defense did exactly that on a first-quarter play against the 49ers.

The Redskins showed San Francisco a dime front and played man coverage across the formation with a single deep safety behind it.

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The Redskins showed a man coverage shell.

Once the ball was snapped, the Washington defensive backs wasted no time plastering 49ers receivers, denying them any room.

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The Redskins clamped on receivers across the field.

Up front, they created heavy inside pressure with a long twist by outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. D-linemen Jarvis Jenkins and Barry Cofield went one way, and Kerrigan looped around their rush path.

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Twists and games up front are a great way for the Redskins to get inside pressure.

He got the interior pressure that forced quarterback Colin Kaepernick to try to escape the pocket, but he only made it as far as Jenkins, who promptly notched the sack.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should use similar designs to get in Manning's face this Sunday. Cowboys tackles Hatcher and Nick Hayden gave the Giants fits along the interior last week, with Hatcher registering a pair of sacks.

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The Giants couldn't handle interior pass-rushers in Week 12.

The Redskins can do the same with the right scheming. Those schemes can be set up by solid, attack-minded run defense on early downs.

Run Defense: Attack the run with slants and key the fullback

The Giants operate a power-based running game predicated on the success of bruising backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs. The Washington defense can disrupt this system by keying fullback John Conner and using stunts and slants to swarm around ball-carriers.

They used a similar approach to contain 49ers power back Frank Gore. The Redskins held Gore to just 31 yards on 13 carries.

In this example, they slanted their defensive front to the left side of San Francisco's offense. As the D-line went that way, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo attacked fullback Bruce Miller.

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The Redskins prepare to slant and key the fullback to attack the run.

The slant created a lane for inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. to scrape and aggressively pursue downhill toward Gore.

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Linebackers smartly scrape behind the slant.

With Orakpo standing up his lead blocker, Gore had nowhere to go and was enclosed by Riley and defensive end Chris Baker. He was soon dropped for a minimal gain.

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Attacking the fullback helps pursuing defenders swarm around a runner.

Washington can shut down the New York ground game if the defense plays the run as aggressively this week.

In fact, aggression should be a buzz word for the whole Redskins team in Week 13. It may be an overused phrase in football, but tenacity is what has been collectively lacking during the last three games.

Taking the game to the Giants with a physical approach can lift the mood around Washington and help the Redskins begin a pride-salvaging finish to the season.

All screen shot courtesy of Fox Sports, ESPN and Game Pass.

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