The Giants have a tough task ahead, not only because it’s a short week, but because they’re facing a Redskins squad seemingly rejuvenated by quarterback Kirk Cousins.
While both teams share the same 1-2 mark, Washington — and specifically their offense — seems to be trending up since Cousins took over for the injured Robert Griffin III two weeks ago.
Cousins, a pocket passer, and Griffin, a mobile dual threat, are at the opposite ends of the quarterback spectrum. But since Cousins took over, the offense has become a high-powered passing threat. Cousins threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Philadelphia last week.
“I think [Cousins] has improved and I think his receiving corps has improved. The question will be, can we get enough pressure on him so that he can’t deliver the ball on time?” said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who beat Cousins last December. “He’s an outstanding player and you just hope he’s having a bad day. But I see him playing with more confidence than he did a year ago in his ability to deliver the ball. His receivers are making great plays on the football. They’re all working in concert.”
Washington also boasts wideout DeSean Jackson, whom Giants fans know all too well from his days in Philadelphia.
All three of the aforementioned receivers present different problems for Big Blue, but the one entity that may strike the biggest fear is the Cousins to Jackson combination.
Like most coordinators, Fewell rarely divulges any pertinent information in regards to scheme, but when asked about Jackson, he acknowledged the Giants would make “special adjustments.”
“You can announce that one. We will keep our safeties a little bit deeper for that guy,” said Fewell. “I wish you would tell me the secret [in slowing down that connection]. Cousins is playing well lately and [Jackson] is such an outstanding player. They kind of use him the same way they did in Philly. He’s still fast and can still split the middle of the field. And when on the edges, he has the jets to run by you. … It helps that the quarterback is delivering the ball where the receivers can catch and run.”
Jackson scored on an 81-yard reception last week in his Philadelphia homecoming, and is a noted Giants killer, so it makes sense Fewell is a little leery of Washington’s big-play ability.
Jackson is second only to Ravens wideout Steve Smith Sr. with 13 catches of at least 60 yards since 2010. He also has 50 receptions, 831 yards, a 16.6 yards per catch average and four scores in 11 career games against Big Blue.
One of the men responsible for slowing down Washington’s passing duo is cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As a former teammate of Jackson’s in Philadelphia, Rodgers-Cromartie is well-acquainted with the speedy wideout.
“He’s definitely a guy you have to watch for the deep ball. And he can also take a screen to the house. He can do it all,” said Rodgers-Cromartie, adding he looks forward to the matchup because he’s always relished facing the shifty Jackson in practice. “He’s always flying around on film. … He’s a good friend of mine. We do a lot of things during the offseason, so I definitely know him and he knows me. It’s definitely going to be a good matchup.”
Safety Quintin Demps, who also played with Jackson in Philadelphia, can’t wait to play his friend, adding the film on Washington’s passing game presents a unique problem.
“I know I must keep everything in front of me, so you’ve got to play a little bit deeper when playing them,” Demps said.
When asked if he’ll heed Fewell’s advice and take a step further back than usual during his pre-snap read, Demps shook his head in feigned denial.
“Not a step. ... Four [steps back],” Demps said. “It’s DeSean Jackson. All he does is run — fast.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Rookies Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) and Devon Kennard (hamstring) have already been rule out for the game. Beckham said he hopes to make his NFL debut in the Oct. 5 home against the Falcons, as the Giants will have an extra four days of rest following this Thursday night matchup.
»Linebacker Jon Beason (ankle/foot) is doubtful.
»Three players are questionable: cornerback Zack Bowman (quadriceps) and offensive tackles Charles Brown (shoulder) and James Brewer (back), while punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) is listed as probable.
»Of all the players on the injury list, however, Kennard was the only one who didn’t practice at all.
»Fewell was evasive in answering questions about last week’s benching of former Pro Bowl safety Stevie Brown in favor of rookie Nat Berhe and whether there will be an official lineup change against Washington.
“[The benching] was an internal Giants decision, and I am going to leave it at that,” said Fewell. “We don’t know [about a lineup change]. We are looking at all possibilities. We’re just trying to get better.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.