The New York Giants’ offseason probably could not have gone much worse.
The Giants have defeated their NFC East rivals six straight times but face plenty of question marks heading into Sunday’s opener at FedEx Field.
There will be plenty of festivities surrounding this contest on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. General Colin Powell will serve as the Redskins’ honorary captain, and family members affected by the attacks will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
On the field, there are doubts for both teams.
The Giants lost middle linebacker Jonathan Goff(notes) for the season with a torn ACL suffered in Monday’s practice. He became the fifth key defensive player lost for the year, joining cornerbacks Terrell Thomas(notes) and Bruce Johnson(notes), rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin(notes) and linebacker Clint Sintim(notes).
“It is unfortunate that these guys have gone down,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “There is no question that there are a number of defensive players that have gone down. There are a number of defensive players that we were counting on that are not going to be with us and you can’t hide that fact.”
The offseason was tumultuous enough due to the standoff between Umenyiora and general manager Jerry Reese, with the former Pro Bowler failing in his bid to renegotiate his contract.
Wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss(notes) were lost in free agency, while popular longtime offensive linemen Rich Seubert(notes) and Shaun O’Hara(notes) were let go. Reese called a press conference during training camp to defend his handling of the offseason after the Giants went 10-6 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season.
The offseason went smoother in Washington now that Haynesworth has departed to New England. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle never got along with Shanahan as the coach tried to implement a 4-3 defense, and they clashed numerous times last season.
With the distraction of Haynesworth gone, the Redskins are hopeful of avoiding a fourth straight last-place finish.
“I think so from your first year and second year, there is usually a big change,” Shanahan said. “You know what people fit your system.”
After trading Donovan McNabb(notes) to Minnesota in the offseason, a tight quarterback battle between Rex Grossman(notes) and John Beck(notes) was won by Grossman, who started the final three games last season once McNabb was benched. Grossman was a backup in Houston in 2009 when Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan served in the same role.
“He’s familiar with the system,” Mike Shanahan said. “I thought he was pretty automatic with a lot of his reads, and hopefully he plays accordingly.”
Landry won’t be part of a defense that features five new starters. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield(notes) is one of them, joining Washington as a free agent after spending his first five seasons with New York.
“Obviously I have my own personal feelings about the game, but the game is on 9-11 and all of the ramifications of that and being at home, in front of our home fans for the first time, the first game and what we believe is a new era in Redskins football,” Cofield said. “There is a lot going into it.”
That defense will be up against a Giants offense that ranked second in the NFC with 137.5 rushing yards per game last season. Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) and Brandon Jacobs(notes) helped New York run for 279 yards in the two games against Washington last year.
Eli Manning(notes) is set to start his 104th straight game - which will become the longest active streak among quarterbacks if brother Peyton doesn’t play as expected for Indianapolis. Manning was fourth in the NFL with 31 touchdowns but also threw a league-high 25 interceptions a year ago.
Washington has won its last four home openers and hasn’t lost seven straight to New York since dropping eight in a row from 1960-64. The Redskins, however, lost their final five 2010 home games.
The Giants have also taken the last six season-opening meetings with the Redskins, prevailing in 2009, 2008, 1998, 1989, 1988 and 1977.