Barry Cofield played against the Washington Redskins 10 times as a member of the New York Giants. After all but one of those games he retreated to a victorious locker room. Dominance in this division rivalry is all he knows.
“When I was there, we respected this team,” the Redskins‘ new nose tackle said. “I’ve heard some things to the contrary, and I don’t think that’s true. When I was there and we had success, it was because we respected this team and we came out and played hard.”
And played better. Much better.
So if the Redskins are to take a significant step forward in coach Mike Shanahan’s second season, they must reverse their fortunes against the Giants, starting with Sunday’s season opener at FedEx Field.
“They’ve ran the ball on us, and we haven’t run the ball on them,” safety Reed Doughty said. “It’s pretty simple. I’m hoping that the way things are progressing, the preseason this year, that we can go out and do those things in the game. They’ve had our number. There’s no other way to look at it.”
Stats from the past 10 meetings tell a clear story, as Doughty suggests. In outscoring the Redskins by an average of 11 points, New York has bludgeoned the Redskins on the ground on both sides of the ball.
In the Giants' 31-7 rout last December, they finished with 197 rushing yards on 36 carries.
“We know they want to run the football,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “I think they averaged about 30-35 rushes a [game] last year. They have a great defensive front - so obviously it started up front on both sides of the ball. We’ve just got to stop the run and get them in third-and-long situations.”
This could be the year, though, the Redskins stop getting pushed around up front on offense. Cofield defected to D.C. during free agency, and two of the other defensive linemen who started for New York against Washington last season - ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck - might miss the game with injuries.
The Giants‘ injury woes also include cornerback Terrell Thomas (torn ACL) and cornerback Prince Amakamura (fractured foot), their first-round pick. First-string middle linebacker Jonathan Goff suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice this week.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan doesn’t see an advantage there, though. He’s wary of the Giants‘ reserves, including defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, their 2010 first-round pick, who had a sack against Washington last season.
“I don’t see them much different,” Shanahan said.
He started all but two games since New York drafted him in the fourth round five years ago. But when it came time for a new contract, Washington made a better commitment.
Cofield has buried any bitterness about his former employer.
“I tried to focus more on the excitement of coming to Washington,” he said. “The only thing I miss in New York are my friends, the relationships that I built. As far as the football aspect of it … I look forward to playing those guys, and I hope we beat those guys.
“After the game I’ll hug everybody. Everybody on the roster gets a hug.”
He wants to be the one smiling, though. He has been part of this rivalry long enough to know what a win would signify for his new team.
“We’re looking to start a new era in Redskins football,” he said.
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