Key Player Match-Ups
By: The Game Day Staff 
Posted: 2003-12-05
Category: Washington Redskins News
Two teams at 4-8... two teams searching for an identity... two teams playing for pride... two teams looking for a win. here are this week's key player match-ups:

Jon Jansen vs. Michael Strahan
Redskins RBs vs. Michael Barrow
Lavaranues Coles vs. Kato Serwanga
Tim Hasselbeck vs. Giants Secondary

Michael Strahan vs. Jon Jansen
By Rich Hilts


Jon Jansen, the gentle giant, captain of the offensive unit has his hands full as he did in week three vs. the Giants. Strahan managed to get around Jansen in that game registering one of his team leading 12 sacks. A perennial sack threat, the 275 pound Strahan not only eats quarterbacks for lunch, but makes other plays as well. This separates him from many of the other pass rushing defensive ends. Jansen not only has to contain him during the pass rush, but has to manhandle him out of the way on any right side run during the game.

Jansenís play has continued to improve, along with the rest of the line. The right side of the line opened a lot of holes last week, but if the Giants blitz Hasselbeck as they did Ramsey, Jansen may be called on to try and help out with blitzers as well as keeping Strahan at arms length. This is where Strahan has a decided advantage, as his outside speed move will massacre Jansen if Jansenís attention is divided by, letís say Michael Barrow for instance, blitzing past him to the inside.

Strahan isnít a fluff and bluster, second behind L.T. on the all time sack leaders list of the Giants already. He also has a respectable 58 tackles, including 49 solo. Jansen has proven he can frustrate this big man, but it depends also on the offense that Spurrier calls for the day. The smart wager being on 40+ passes for the day leads one to expect that Strahan will be on Hasselbeck during the day, maybe more than once. With Hasselbeck being decisively quicker with his reads, he may escape the sacks, but probably not some hits from the right side.

It may be a small advantage, given JJís skill level, but it is still there for Strahan.

Advantage: Strahan

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Michael Barrow vs. Redskins RBs
By Fran Farren


Because the Skins are (once again) out of the playoff picture, one of the Skins goals in the upcoming weeks will be to assess their running back situation. The question is, who is it gonna be this week? Which running back is going to step to the front and show that he is the running back of the future for the Redskins?

Last week, Trung Canidate stepped up and (finally) displayed the speed and rushing skills that the team has been waiting to see all year, rushing for a season high 115 yards with a VERY impressive 7.2 yards/carry average. Canidate is presently leading the other running backs on the team with 531 yards on 123 carries (4.1 yards/carry average) and 1 TD. Next in line, even after missing several weeks, is Ladell Betts with 252 yards on 76 carries (3.3 yards/carry average) and 2 TDs, and Rock Cartwright with 214 yards on 49 carries (4.4 yards/carry average) and 3 TDs. Bringing up the rear, mainly because he is used more on kick-off/punt returns than as a running back, is Chad Morton.

All in all, the Redskins running attack hasnít been too bad this year, ringing up 1,274 yards (just over 100 yards per game average) and 7 Tds. Yes, it would be nice if one running back could be the front-runner and, for now, that appears to be Canidateís job to lose.

This week, the Redskins running attack will be up against LB Mike Barrow. Leading the Giants in tackles with 113 (84 solo) and 3 forced fumbles, Barrow is hoping to play a significant role in stopping the Redskins rushing attack. Barrow is recovering from a minor ankle injury, however, and that certainly wonít help him stop the run. Barrow & Co. have been giving up an average of 117.7 yards per game on the ground this year; however, Barrow has been one of the better linebackers in the league this year.

This week, however, Canidate will want to prove that last weekís numbers were certainly no fluke and that no one, not even Barrow, can stop him. When he is not running with the ball, look for Betts to make his claim to be the #1 running back and look for Cartwright to get the tough yards and a TD. All in all, the Redskins running game should be productive again this week.

Advantage - Redskins RBs

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Lavaranues Coles vs. Kato Serwanga
By Frank Hastings


The Giants' have an injury-riddled secondary that is missing three of its four starters. Cornerback Will Allen will miss the rest of the season after being placed on injured reserve with a torn ligament in his left foot. Allen was hurt in the second half of the Giants' 24-7 loss to the Bills on Nov. 30. Also on injured reserve are the other starting cornerback, Will Peterson (stress fracture in lower back) and starting strong safety, Shaun Williams.

Starting in place of Allen will be Kato Serwanga (6'0", 201, California). That name sound familiar? It should. Washington signed Serwanga as a free agent in 2001. The Redskins waived him in 2002 and he signed with the Giants.

Serwanga, a Uganda native, is a versatile player who has made big plays on both defense and special teams, but look for him to have his hands full this weekend with Coles. The lack of safety support and continuity, as well as Coles blazing speed and route running abilities, will test and surpass Serwanga's coverage skills.

Advantage: Coles

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Tim Hasselbeck vs. Giants Secondary
By Martin Colinson


With starter Pat Ramsey almost certain to miss his second straight start after a recurrence of his foot injury in practice this week it seems likely that backup QB Tim Hasselbeck will make his second career NFL start Sunday.

Hasselbeck made his first regular season appearance in relief of an injured Ramsey against Miami two weeks ago and made his first NFL start last week against New Orleans. In both appearances he moved the ball well showing good mobility, an NFL calibre arm, and decent decision making. In both games Hasselbeck had the ĎSkins ahead late in the fourth quarter but the defense was unable to make the critical last stops and giving up late winning touchdowns in both games. All in all it has been an encouraging start for Hasselbeck who has shown far more ability to be the long term back up to Ramsey than previous incumbent Rob Johnson.

This week Hasselbeck will be throwing against a Giants secondary ranked a lowly 25th in the NFL in terms of passing yardage conceded. At the corners Kato Serwanga and Ralph Brown will probably start though some depth charts have Frank Walker starting ahead of Serwanga. Brown, who is playing for injured Will Peterson, is a solid corner but will struggle to hold up in single coverage against the deep Redskins receiving corps as will Serwanga or Walker. The G-men are also without the services of safety Shaun Williams who was put on injured reserve with Peterson and Will Allen -- sidelining 3/4 of New York's starting secondary. The Giants are thin and there will be real opportunities for Hasselbeck to make big plays, especially in nickel situations.

The question for the Giants is whether to look to protect their brittle secondary by giving the corners safety help and by playing more zone than they might like or to bet the farm on putting pressure on Hasselbeck by blitzing and hoping they get to the QB before the Redskins receivers run by the suspect secondary. If the Redskins can pass protect, this is a match up Hasselbeck can win.

Advantage : Hasselbeck


Be sure to check back Satruday at noon for the rest of the Game Day section.

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