With the New York Giants opening their 2011 NFL season Sunday against the Washington Redskins we swapped 'five questions' with SB Nation DC, our regional site covering sports in the D.C. area. See my answers to SB Nation DC's questions, as well.
SB Nation New York: Rex Grossman boasted in the preseason about the Redskins being the best team in the NFC East. Can the Redskins actually back that up?
Daniel Shiferaw, SB Nation D.C.: There's a chance they can, but it's unlikely. In order for them to have a shot at the division title, the Redskins will need to stay healthy virtually the entire season and have Grossman play at a level he hasn't shown he's capable of yet. They'd also need the other three teams to crumble due to poor play or injury. The chances of the stars aligning for a division title for Washington remain bleak.
Daniel Shiferaw, SB Nation D.C.: For one, the Redskins have changed their organizational philosophy as it relates to roster building. Gone are the days of bringing in other team's aging stars for top dollar, only to get minimal production. The team has now prioritized the draft, with general manager Bruce Allen opting to trade down to acquire twelve selections (the largest class in the NFL this year). On the free agency front, they now bring in younger, cheaper, and hungrier players who fit the scheme on each side of the ball. Last but not least, they have a coach in Mike Shanahan who stresses hard work and dedication to perfecting your craft, and the team has bought in hook, line and sinker.
Daniel Shiferaw, SB Nation D.C.: I'm not sure if Giants fans know who Brandon Banks is, but it's likely that they will know after the game. The Redskins' smallest player (listed at 5-foot-9, 148 pounds) has been the team's most electric player since he joined the team last year as an undrafted rookie. He's now considered just a return specialist on both punts and kickoffs, but he has shown (when healthy) that he can become one of the best return men in the league.
Daniel Shiferaw, SB Nation D.C.: Around these parts, they're still viewed as the team that has dominated the Redskins. They have gone 9-1 against Washington in their last 10 meetings, so right now the Giants are still looked at as a tough opponent. It appears their formula for success has not changed - run the ball with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, and then unleash a myriad of pass rushers on opposing quarterbacks. As long as those two elements are their bread and butter, they'll always be viewed as dangerous.
SB Nation New York: If you were game-planning against the Redskins, what would you try to exploit?
Daniel Shiferaw, SB Nation D.C.: Defensively, it'd be to attack their pass protection schemes. This offensive has shown that, while improved, it still doesn't look to be an elite pass protecting group. Blitz heavy packages would likely succeed vs. the Redskins, as their running backs don't provide the same amount of protection as they used to now that Clinton Portis is gone.
Offensively, you'd have to test the Redskins in coverage. They will likely be without their top safety in Laron Landry, and have starting corners DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson who's cover skills are not considered elite. If I'm the Giants, I see if the Redskins can stop a heavy dose of Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks.