I've got mail...
Jason from Russell, Mass., doesn't like all the talk about how the Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants last year with Rex Grossman at quarterback, and he offers six -- SIX! -- reasons why it should be different this time. They are: 1. The Redskins had better players on defense last year; 2. The Redskins didn't rank last in the league against the pass last year; 3. The Giants' offensive line is playing better; 4. The Giants have more and better options at wide receiver this year; 5. The Giants' run game is much better this year; 6. The Giants' defense is better this year than it was in Weeks 1 and 15 last year.
Dan Graziano: All of that is true, Jason, though if I were your editor I'd have suggested you could combine the first two. And yes, I do think it's enough to offset the dramatic improvement the Redskins have made at quarterback with Robert Griffin III. But as it has in recent weeks for the Redskins, I think this game could come down to defensive scheme and strategy. The Redskins believe that the way they covered against Eli Manning last year flustered Manning, because they were able to shut down half of the field and limit the choices he had at his disposal. Assuming that's their plan again this year, has Manning adjusted for it? And regardless of whether he has, you're 100 percent right about the Giants' run game, which did not have to be respected by defensive coordinators last year but looks as though it does this year. Redskins coordinator Jim Haslett has been able to design schemes in recent weeks that help his team overcome its personnel shortcomings on defense -- at least enough to allow the Griffin-led offense to match them, and he'll have to be at his very best to do so this week.
Dan in Columbia Md., notes that the trash talk leading up to this Redskins-Giants game has been unusually polite, with Osi Umenyiora referring to the Redskins' rookie quarterback as "Sir Robert Griffin" and such. Dan wonders if this shows that Griffin has already earned an unusual measure of respect from his division opponents.
DG: Dan, I think he has. These guys are all watching film, looking at the numbers, playing fantasy football, whatever. They can see what Griffin's doing. Prior to the season, a lot of people asked me whether Griffin could have the same kind of rookie season Cam Newton had for the Panthers last year, and in several respects he's doing even better. Through his first six games last year, Newton had thrown for 1,847 yards, which dwarfs Griffin's current 1,343. But Griffin has a higher completion percentage (70.2 to 58.5), fewer turnovers (3 to 9), a higher Total QBR (74.4 to 51.0) and nearly as many total touchdowns (11 to 13) as Newton had at this point last season. There's just nothing for anyone to pick apart here. He's poised, he's dangerous and I believe the Giants' players respect the way he's performed and the way he's gone about his business. Now, having treated him with respect all week, they will attempt to make his Sunday afternoon as miserable as possible.
Ryan from Philly wants to know why Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha isn't on this week's All-NFC East team, especially after shutting down Calvin Johnson all day Sunday before Juan Castillo had the idea to change coverages in the fourth quarter and get himself fired.
DG: Ryan, I considered Asomugha for the team this week, and I appreciate the fact that you offered full-season numbers to support your case, because it shows you understand (as many seem not to) that it's a season-to-date team and not a one-week team. I do think that Asomugha is playing better this year than his reputation among fans indicates. His exclusion is not because I have a low opinion of him or his work (I do not), but rather because I believe Josh Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have performed even better.
Billy from Oklahoma City wants to know how much I think the Dallas Cowboys' special teams are to blame for their problems this year.
DG: The Cowboys rank 25th in kick return yardage and 29th in punt return yardage. Their opponents rank 11th in kick return yardage and 31st in punt return yardage. So they're covering the punts well, but the rest... meh. I think, in general, that special teams is an area that can really show a lack of quality roster depth, which I believe is one of the Cowboys' main problems at this point in their rebuild. If you have talented guys riding your bench who will someday be starters for you, you have talented, hungry dudes covering kicks. If the guys on your bench are non-prospects who will eventually be replaced by people you pick up in future drafts, your special teams can suffer for a lack of talent. I think this is part of the issue the Cowboys have on special teams, and the way in which it speaks to their overall issues.
Thanks for all of the questions. Chat at you Sunday from Redskins-Giants.