A look at the Giants game plus--Who are those guys?
2004 RANKINGS: Giants: offense 17th (9th rush, 23rd pass); defense 10th (25th rush, 6th pass). Redskins: offense 30th (24th rush, 30th pass); defense 2nd (3rd rush, 5th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins desperately need to get their running game going with RB Clinton Portis averaging just 13.3 yards per carry in the past three games. When Washington falls behind, it is forced to abandon the run, so getting off to a quick start is essential. QB Patrick Ramsey will take a few deep shots in an effort to keep the Giants defense honest, but that requires the offensive line providing him time to drop back and throw. Giants rookie QB Eli Manning faces the same issue behind his porous offensive line. The Redskins held the Giants to 62 rushing yards in the first meeting and will focus on shutting RB Tiki Barber down until Manning proves he can hurt them through the air. Look for him to rely more on the underneath passes to Barber and TE Jeremy Shockey to thwart the pass rush.
FAST FACTS: Giants: Barber needs one 100-yard rushing game to break Joe Morris' team record of eight in a single season. ... WR Amani Toomer has a reception in a team-record 94 consecutive games. Redskins: Portis needs 55 rushing yards to be the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2001. ... Defense allows a league-low 4.25 yards on first down.
PREDICTION: Redskins 16-10
Giants: -- It is likely that DT Norman Hand (strained groin muscle) will miss Sunday's game against Washington. "He had an MRI exam," coach Tom Coughlin said, "and it didn't show any tear. But he's hurting, you can see he's hurting."
-- There is also strong reason to think that rookie SS Gibril Wilson will miss a third straight game with a neck burner. "It's a slow process and he just can't move like an athlete has to move as long as he has it," Coughlin said. Terry Cousin has moved back from his role as a reserve CB to become the starter.
-- RB Tiki Barber, who leads the team with 1,145 yards and is just 45 shy of NFC leader Shaun Alexander of Seattle, suffered a serious cut on his knee in last Sunday's loss to Philadelphia. He required stitches during the game but did come back in to play, and says he will be fine for Sunday.
-- WLB Barrett Green, who was ejected from the game vs. Philadelphia last week for fighting with Eagles LB Jeremiah Trotter on the sidelines (Trotter was flagged for hitting QB Eli Manning out of bounds at the Giants' bench), will be fined automatically by the NFL. It is thought to be a $5,000 penalty for a first infraction. It is also allowable for the team to add a fine but the Giants wouldn't comment on that.
-- TE Jeremy Shockey, whose 44 receptions lead the team, was critical of the play that resulted in an Eagle interception in the end zone last week. "It was an obvious call and we have done it often," he said of the "fade" pass thrown by Manning and picked off by Quintin Mikell.
-- WRs Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard have yet to catch a touchdown pass this season, and Coughlin admitted some chemistry needs to develop with rookie QB Eli Manning. "We've had a summer and Eli has had some opportunities. It's different in the game because things are much faster, things happen right away from the standpoint of a coverage which turns you away from a side of a field or sends you to the side of a field and then again how the individual is being played," Coughlin said. "It's a process that everyone is going through as Eli develops and has time spent on the field and learns and experiences with regard to what his job is."
-- DL Damane Duckett was signed by the Giants on Thursday. "He has to contribute," Coughlin said. "Exactly where we stand on Sunday we'll look at. He's already a day late in terms of this week but certainly will help us down the road."
-- Lorenzo Bromell was placed on injured reserve.
--RG Randy Thomas (hamstring) returned to practice Thursday and was upgraded to questionable for the Giants game.
--DE Phillip Daniels (groin) responded well to Wednesday's practice and was back out on the field Thursday. He seems increasingly likely to play against the Giants.
--T Mark Wilson (knee) skipped practice Wednesday and Thursday and was downgraded to doubtful.
--WR Laveranues Coles (hip) practiced this week and should play the Giants game. He won't be full healthly, though, until after the season. --DE Demetric Evans (ankle) sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday but is probable for the Giants game.
--DT Cornelius Griffin (hip) didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday but is probable.
--DT Jermaine Haley (knee) skipped practice Thursday and is probable.
--T Chris Samuels (ankle) practiced this week and is probable.
--CB Fred Smoot (shoulder) practiced this week and is probable.
--CB Walt Harris (knee) took a rest day Thursday but will play against the Giants.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Giants are fast running out of defensive linemen.
First they lost their star, Pro Bowl DE Michael Strahan, for the season (torn pectoral) and in the same game saw the other starting end, Keith Washington, go out for the season as well (knee surgery).
But in subsequent weeks, they have also seen various degrees of time-consuming injuries befall DT Fred Robbins, DT Norman Hand, reserve DE Chuck Wiley (knee, out for the season just two weeks after signing him), DE Lorenzo Bromell (knee, out for the season) and free agent DL Martin Chase (knee), lost during training camp.
At the moment, converted DT Lance Legree is starting at left end for Strahan, second-year Osi Umenyiora is starting at right end for Washington and 2003 first-round draft pick William Joseph is going to be counted on heavily at tackle.
"We've got to step up," Legree says. "You never know when you are the one who is a step away from doing something important, from becoming a contributor to a victory. I don't think about who's here and who isn't. I don't think about whether I'm playing end or tackle, and I don't honestly think I care. It's football and I love to play it, and I play it to the best of my abilities."
For much of the season, the Giants' other line -- the O-line -- has been a constant source of concern. But that's because the starters weren't playing well, and there simply is no depth for head coach Tom Coughlin to make personnel changes. The problem on defense is that the linemen were playing well -- when they were playing.
Coach Joe Gibbs, whose personnel decisions have drawn scrutiny in recent weeks, said he wouldn't have any problem working with a general manager. However, he remains confident in the current personnel setup and thinks Washington's offseason performance was "darn good." Observers aren't so sure. Gibbs this spring selected quarterback Mark Brunell, who already has been benched, and running back Clinton Portis, who got just six carries in the most recent game.
Some believe it's time Gibbs went back to the type of setup he had during his first stint, when he worked with general manager Bobby Beathard or Charley Casserly. Right now, Gibbs makes decisions by committee with personnel director Vinny Cerrato and owner Dan Snyder, though Gibbs is said to "set the vision" for the team and have the final word on signings.
"I have no problem with (working with a general manager)," Gibbs said. "I worked with GMs before who were really good. I don't know if it's as much titles and everything as it is the working relationship. Our working relationship here is very similar to what we had before.
"What Bobby was responsible for was the talent. I was responsible for saying, 'OK, these are the guys that will stay.' There's no change in that, really. What we do here, with Vinny and all the coaches involved, we kind of make the personnel decisions together."
Gibbs also commented on the possibility that he might depart the job someday if he doesn't turn around the team. However, he didn't say when he would start thinking hard about such a choice. This week, he flatly rejected an ESPN report that he was thinking about stepping down after the season.
"If I ever reached the feeling that I was holding things back, I'd fix it," Gibbs said. "But I think we're just getting started."
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