Redskins vs. Giants: Takeaways from New York's 20-6 Win over Washington
The win was New York's seventh of the season—not enough to qualify for the playoffs. So, Sunday's matchup with Washington was the last one we'll witness for several months.
The next Giants team we see take the field may look entirely different than the one that just hosted the 'Skins at MetLife Stadium in Week 17.
Is the Giants' future any less murky after this most recent win?
The Giants' win over the Redskins was their seventh of the season.
A 7-9 final record is nothing impressive, and it is certainly below the Super Bowl standards set before the season began.
Consider New York's 0-6 start, however, and it is remarkable that the team went 7-3 for the remainder of the season.
During the atrocious opening weeks of the season, New York's defense was porous, allowing 30 or more points in each of the first five games. The acquisition of linebacker John Beason, along with the emergence of safety Antrel Rolle and a stout run defense, helped turn the defense around.
The offense, however, was not as easily amended. An ailing offensive line never jelled with its ever-rotating cast of starters. The turnstile of running backs provided quarterback Eli Manning little consistency in the pocket.
Against the Redskins, the wheels finally came off.
The rickety offense, held together by patchwork acquisitions like running back Peyton Hillis, suffered injuries to its two remaining producers at wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle. Victor Cruz was inactive for the contest after undergoing knee surgery.
Manning and offensive tackle Will Beatty were also lost for the contest, as New York was forced to press forward with stopgap replacements at O-line and receiver. Backup quarterback Curtis Painter led the charge in the second half, completing just two passes for 11 yards.
If the Giants season was just one game longer, it would almost be a certainty that they would lose.
The terribly battered squad weathered one more outing—a fitting downpour at MetLife Stadium—to secure the seventh, and final, win of the season.
The Jerrel Jernigan Show
Offensively, the Giants did not have much going for them, which is not breaking news for this 2013 season.
They did have Jerrel Jernigan, though—a 5'8" receiver in his third season with the team.
Since Cruz's injury, Jernigan has assumed the role of slot receiver and excelled. His shiftiness and speed, two characteristics heavily advertised at the time of his drafting, are finally being taken full advantage of when the Giants get him the ball in space.
Only two touchdowns were scored in the Giants-Redskins tilt, and both were by Jernigan.
The first came on a second-quarter drive in which he had already recorded a 30-yard catch-and-run. From 24 yards out, Manning found Jernigan behind two defenders in the end zone, giving the Giants a lead they would never relinquish.
Later, with the offense struggling to move in the driving rain, the Giants gave Jernigan the ball on a reverse. He was able to shake free of a couple of would-be tacklers and jog in for a 49-yard score.
Jernigan finished the game as the Giants' leading receiver and rusher. He caught six passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing twice for a total of 57 yards and another touchdown.
As a receiver, in Cruz's absence, Jernigan has hauled in 19 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
Welcome to "The Jerrel Jernigan Show."
Tuck's Last Stand
One-time All-Pro defensive end Justin Tuck acknowledged that Sunday's matchup with the Redskins could have been his final contest as a Giant.
If it was, it was a memorable one.
Tuck had a solid outing, capping off a resurgent 2013 campaign. Even when the offense was turning the ball over and failing to put up points, New York's defense and its stalwart captain kept the team barely afloat.
Against Washington, Tuck racked up six tackles (four solo, two for a loss), two sacks, a QB hit and a forced fumble, which was recovered be fellow defensive lineman Linval Joseph.
Tuck's 2013 season has been one of his best. He finished the season with 63 tackles and posted a double-digit sack mark (11) for the first time since 2010.
Many believe Tuck's play this season has warranted a contract extension. He is staunch against the run, and he finally looks youthful again in the pass rush.
But with free agency on the horizon and the team facing an impending rebuilding period, Tuck's future in New York remains in a haze.
After several subpar seasons, the Giants can hardly count on a consistent Tuck from year to year. Now that Tuck is over the age of 30, a significant drop-off in effectiveness is imminent.
However, through two Super Bowls, Tuck has been the leader of the defense—a platoon that was New York's saving grace in 2013. If Tom Coughlin and Manning are safe, so should Tuck.
Black and Blue
The battered Giants now head into the 2014 offseason with some significant work to do.
The many injuries suffered in Week 17 were a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. The Giants did not adapt well to the injuries they sustained this year, which can be attributed to a lack of flexibility on the part of the coaching staff and missed opportunities on the part of the players.
The unit hampered most by injuries this season was, undoubtedly, the offensive line, where the interior starters seemed to shift on a near-weekly basis. The running back situation was almost as intolerable, as half a dozen backs earned chances to start at some point in the season.
The Giants averaged only 80 rushing yards per game in 2013—one of the league's worst rates.
Until the Giants get some consistency at these positions, the offense will struggle. Premier offensive line talent must be pinpointed in the draft in order to replace aging members, such as Chris Snee, David Baas and David Diehl. A reliable running back must be added to the mix, as the hit-or-miss David Wilson and oft-injured Andre Brown are not reliable enough to be counted upon to carry the load on the ground.
The contributing receivers, who were all injured in Week 17, must work harder to get on the same page with Manning in 2014. This season's 27 interceptions was ungodly.
The Giants can also afford to improve on special teams and defense.
Several times this year, New York was served a knockout blow on special teams by its opponent. The lack of a consistent pass rush, which has been a staple of past Giants squads, has robbed Big Blue of its attacking style on defense.
In the offseason, in addition to addressing the offensive woes, the Giants can become a much better team by delivering more punches in those aspects of the game.