New York Giants @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1pm est FOX
Announcers – Justin Kutcher, David Diehl
The New York Giants (3-8) will be in Jacksonville on Sunday to play the Jaguars (1-10) at 1 p.m. ET at EverBank Field. Here are three things we’ll be watching closely:
1. The pass protection. The Bills and the Eagles are the only teams in the NFL who have more sacks this year than Jacksonville’s 33. The Giants have allowed 17 sacks during their six-game losing streak and have done a poor job overall of keeping the pass rush off quarterback Eli Manning. Getting right tackle Justin Pughback from his quad injury is the kind of thing that could help, and if the offensive line can get back to its strong run-blocking ways from September and October, a reliance on the run game could act as its own form of pass protection. But as the Giants look ahead to yet another offseason of change, what they see in these final five games will help them figure out where and how much work is still needed on the offensive line as they move into the future.
2. What do the Jaguars do about Odell Beckham Jr.? The Giants have been anticipating that, as Beckham continues to emerge as a star, teams will devote more coverage to him down the field and open things up underneath for other options such as Larry Donnell, Rueben Randleand maybe even Preston Parker. But to this point, Beckham has continued to make plays, and his reliability has made him a trustworthy downfield and red-zone target for Manning, who has shown throughout the years that he’ll trust anyone who can consistently get open and catch the ball. Do the Jags have some plan for taking Beckham out of the game? Do they have the personnel to execute it? And if they or some other team succeeds at this in the coming weeks, will the Giants really be able to run the offense through the other options?
3. Will Jason Pierre-Paul dominate? The Giants’ young star pass-rusher has five games left in his contract drive, and so far he hasn’t had the kind of season that makes re-signing him to a big long-term contract a no-brainer decision. A run of games against sub-.500 teams offers the Giants a chance to get some wins, and it could offer Pierre-Paul a chance to pile up numbers against lesser competition. The Giants would like to see him do it. They will have to rebuild their pass rush in the offseason regardless of what happens with Pierre-Paul, but their preference is that he emerges as a cornerstone there.
Washington Redskins @ Indianapolis Colts 1pm FOX
Announcers – Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
- While Alfred Morris‘ numbers are much better with Robert Griffin III in the game than without him, the coaches do not attribute his recent success to Griffin’s presence. That’s why the Washington Redskins are confident Morris will continue to run well with Griffin now on the bench. The feeling is that Morris is just running better, but also that the line and tight ends have done a better job in run blocking — especially with their combination blocks. They had not been doing as well in that area earlier in the season. It wasn’t like Morris was having a great deal of success in the zone read, or that they were running it a lot. They’ve also used more three-receiver sets lately, leading to more holes. But they feel Morris has been more decisive.
- One thing that stood out in Colt McCoy‘s first start vs. Dallas was the way he responded to a bad first half. He threw an interception and generally played lackluster football, despite good field position. But the way he responded is what they had not seen from Kirk Cousins, for example. McCoy starred in the second half of that win. It’s that sort of poise that they hope pays off for them in the next five games.
- They also like that McCoy knows where to go with the ball, but also generally gives his targets a chance to run after the catch. They also like that McCoy can move around and is a good athlete. They like that McCoy has a firm grasp on the offense and often approaches the game like a coach — he constantly asks questions. Another point of emphasis: Teammates do like him and respond to him. That’s not a criticism of Griffin, but it is something that was pointed out about McCoy. How much it helps Sunday, who knows. What the Redskins do know is that the Colts’ cornerbacks do an excellent job in man coverage, so he might be throwing in some tight windows.
- If and when it ends here for Griffin, there will be talk — not about how hard he worked, but perhaps what he could have focused on more. No one has ever questioned him in terms of his physical preparation. When asked if Griffin perhaps needed to change what he focused on, coach Jay Gruden said, “That could be the case. He’s worked very hard on his fundamentals. He’s worked very hard in the weight room, very hard on his strength and conditioning and all that stuff. I think now that he’s got these concepts that he can work on and seeing the film and watching film, you know there’s other ways to work. But I’m not concerned about the way he works. Anybody who’s questioned that about his work ethic is off-base. He’s a great kid. … This is just about us trying to win football games, and for whatever reason we have not been very good offensively when he’s been the quarterback.”
- The coaches have been pleased with how Griffin has responded. And it’s not as if he’s been hiding from teammates, etc. He is certainly subdued, to a degree, and disappointed. But Griffin was as active in the locker room with his teammates as he normally would be. It’s safe to say that he does not think his career is shot.
- Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on what Colts quarterback Andrew Luck does well: “He gets the ball out of his hands. Things don’t bother him. He knows where to go with the ball. He takes a hit and it doesn’t affect him. The object is not just to hit him, you’ve got to get a sack or dislodge the ball from him, which is not easy, because he’s a big human being. I watch games and see teams playing them well, and then you see a 70-yarder and then a 50-yarder.”
- In the past three games, the Redskins ranked 27th offensively, averaging 294.0 yards per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They were 28th in points per game at 15.3. And they were 29th in third-down conversions at 30.8. But the Redskins ranked fourth in yards per carry during this stretch at 4.75. Those numbers go along with what Gruden said of Griffin this week, “When you’re talking about pass concepts, there’s a lot that has to do with repetition, confidence and knowing where people are and where you get rid of the football. Right now, for whatever reason, it’s not clicking as fast as it should be. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a great quarterback one day, here or somewhere else. It just means he needs more time to go through this.”
- Here’s what former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now in the same position with Cleveland, told Browns reporters about the Griffin situation: “Robert’s a good guy, he works hard. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t bounce back from this.”