In three career games against the Giants, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has not played well. He’s thrown a combined two touchdowns and eight interceptions and has lost all three starts. In his first start, the game was played in horrible conditions and was the last of the season. Last year’s four-interception day was a bad game prompted by poor quarterback play and a nice job by the Giants.
This season's first meeting on Sept. 24 played out differently; Cousins’ mistakes stemmed from different reasons than the previous year's. But it wasn’t as if New York’s defense was the sole reason for his mistakes. There were too many times where he just missed open targets. Cousins hurt himself more than the Giants.
Inside Redskins Park, the view is that Cousins’ struggles against the Giants have more to do with the quarterback and the situation than what the Giants have or have not done. The coaches believe the offense had a good rhythm going in the first meeting until the game got away because of turnovers. Here’s what Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of the struggles: “He’s thrown some balls that he probably shouldn’t have thrown and then they’ve also made some good plays with the pass rush and hurried him into some throws he wouldn’t normally make.”
One thing to watch Sunday: the impact of corner Prince Amukamara and end Jason Pierre-Paul. Amukamara is returning after missing five games because of a pectoral injury. The Redskins consider the pairing of Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the best corner tandem they’ll face this season. As for Pierre-Paul, the Redskins anticipate him playing some against right tackle Morgan Moses. In the past, Pierre-Paul has rushed almost exclusively from right end. But they have used him some at left end, too, in recent games.
In two games against Washington, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has caught 19 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns. That’s not shabby. With corner Chris Culliver out for the season, the Redskins lose one player they wanted to match up on him. In the first meeting this season, the Redskins did not use just one corner. Bashaud Breeland faced him, as did DeAngelo Hall (once). The Giants do a good job moving Beckham around. “They put him on mismatches,” Breeland said, “try to get him on linebackers. Line him up [inside] and move him around. You really can’t dictate where he’s going to be and how you’re going to stop him. You just have to have a plan once you get there.” Hall said Beckham is more than just a great receiver; he’s a great football player. In other words, he’s not just about catching passes.
Breeland, assuming he plays after missing practice with an illness Friday, also said, “I love going against guys like this. This is where you earn your money. I would like to follow him, but I won’t get the option because we have other corners who can compete against him as well. It’s a good challenge.” The big key is changing looks against him. “The way they set him up in different formations, it’s hard to press and be physical against him. You’ve got to bring other things when he’s not on the outside. When he’s inside you might have to double him. When he’s outside you can press him up.”
Beckham, meanwhile, agrees with the assessment that the way to play him is to be physical. “I think that would be the best thing for someone to do at the line is just to be as physical as you can. I just feel very comfortable. You know, once you get past that part of it, even if you get a good release, I feel very comfortable doing the rest. So, making it difficult at the line is definitely a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing if it's not done right."
Center Josh LeRibeus will remain as the starting center. There’s a sense that Brian de la Puente is still working back into football shape after missing half of last season and not being in a training camp. “Josh is getting better, just like everybody else every day, and that’s all we can do. Obviously, if it continues, I think Brian feels a lot more comfortable in the offense,” Gruden said. “I have no problem sticking with Josh right now. Josh is battling some, you know, nagging injuries here and there, too, but he should be good to go. We have faith in Josh.”