Injuries a key factor in Redskins-Giants matchup
LANDOVER, Md. — The Washington Redskins have reached the point where they probably cannot afford to lose any more players. They definitely cannot afford to lose another game.
After watching a stirring win dissolve into a crushing overtime defeat Sunday at New Orleans, the Redskins had to forget it fast as they prepare to host their first-ever Thanksgiving Day game, a division contest Thursday night against the New York Giants.
After placing four players on injured reserve Tuesday, the Redskins (4-6) will not even attempt a full practice before the game.
“It’s quite the challenge,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said on a conference call. “We’re only going to do walk-throughs this week. We’re pretty dinged up, and we don’t have really enough guys to get 11 on 11 right now for look squad (scout team). Most of our look squad guys are going to be playing, so we just got to get them ready to go.”
Sent to injured reserve were guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger), center Spencer Long (knee), wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (ankle) and running back Chris Thompson (fibula). Backup center Chase Roullier (hand) is also out this week.
Five other Redskins sat out Tuesday, and eight were listed as limited.
The IR moves end a disappointing season for Pryor and a breakthrough year for Thompson. Signed as a free agent after the team let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon depart, Pryor caught just 20 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown. Gruden said Pryor battled the ankle injury since Week 2.
Thompson, meanwhile, averaged 4.6 yards per carry as the third-down back and rushed for two scores. He is tied for the team lead with 39 catches, good for 510 yards and four touchdowns. Starting running back Rob Kelley is already on IR.
An overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday left Washington sitting 11th in the NFC playoff chase, meaning the Redskins need to jump over five teams in the final six weeks. On the plus side, starting with the Giants (a team they play twice), the Redskins won’t face a team that currently has a winning record the rest of the way.
“I feel like we have a lot of warriors on this team, guys who are winners and want to compete every single play,” tight end Vernon Davis told the Washington Post. “Weeks like this can really test your character and test who you are as a man. How will you respond?”
Washington’s best possible finish is 10-6. The Redskins haven’t reached 11 wins since 1991.
The last time these teams met, the Giants ended Washington’s 2016-17 season. Needing a win to reach the postseason, Washington lost 19-10 to New York at FedExField on the final day of the season. New York has won five of its past seven games against the Redskins.
In effect, the Giants (2-8) can be spoilers again, but they have their own injury issues. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard missed New York’s Sunday win against the Kansas City Chiefs with a migraine headache. Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Tuesday that Shepard was not feeling well and that the medical staff was evaluating him. Shepard leads the team with 475 receiving yards on 38 catches.
In addition, guard D.J. Fluker (toe) is in a walking boot and offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) remains out.
Two other Giants sat out Tuesday and six were limited.
“The short week — it affects the players. They have to obviously recover very quickly, not just physically but mentally and emotionally to get ready for the next one,” McAdoo said.
“You have to shove a game plan in there. You probably have got to keep it somewhat simple. It is pro football. You think guys can handle some tweaks and things like that, but you have to be smart on what you ask them to do. But I think recovery is probably the biggest challenge.”
New York snapped a three-game losing streak with its 12-9 overtime win against the Chiefs. Quarterback Eli Manning, whose pregame speech was credited with providing a spark, will try to make it two straight wins.
“It’s a short week, but everyone here is excited about the opportunity to go play on Thanksgiving,” Manning told the team’s website.
Manning is 17-8 as a starter against Washington. He has completed 493 of 841 passes (59 percent) for 5,934 yards with 28 touchdowns and 23 interceptions vs. the Redskins.
Against New York, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins (2-4 as a starter) is 131 of 230 (57 percent) for 1,627 yards with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Redskins have allowed 30 or more points five times this season, including in their two consecutive losses. New York has not scored 30 points in any of McAdoo’s 27 games as head coach.
Washington’s offense is ranked 11th in points per game while the Giants are 30th.
With its recent performances, the Redskins’ defense has fallen to 31st in points per game. The Giants’ defense is tied for 21st.
Both teams struggle on third down on both sides of the ball. Washington is 22nd in third-down efficiency on offense and 23rd on defense. The Giants are 29th on offense and 27th on defense.