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Armando Salguero: Panic Meter At Full Tilt For Washington vs. Giants On Thursday

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This happened: In the fourth quarter of their two-touchdown loss to the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants were vainly trying to rally by throwing the ball often, which put their offensive line in some distress. And during a third-down pass, New York right tackle Nate Solder found himself facing the wrong way and actually blocking a teammate instead of Denver pass rusher Von Miller.

No bueno.

This also happened: In their opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Washington Football Team expected to pick right up where it finished last season — as one of the best defenses overall and perhaps the NFL’s best third-down defense. The WFT allowed a paltry 38 percent conversion rate on third down last year, seventh best in the NFL.

But against the Chargers, Washington allowed Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Co. to convert 14 of 19 third down plays. That’s an amazing 73.7 percent conversion rate.

And did we mention Washington lost its starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip subluxation that has landed him on injured reserve for up to eight weeks?

So if we’re measuring games using a panic meter, then the New York Giants visiting the Washington Football Team in a couple days is going to tilt our trusty tool.

These are two teams with playoff aspirations, and both are under significant pressure to meet expectations. And starting the season 0-2 is a problem.

“It’s certainly big,” Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said when asked about avoiding that 0-2 start. “Every game is big. We’ve got to do a good job coming back, learning from the things
that happened on Sunday and making sure we correct them and move forward. We treat it one week at a time and focus our full efforts on Washington and getting a win this week.”

Jones has a problem. He turns the ball over. A lot.

He tied for the league lead in fumbles last year and started this season with, you guessed it, a fumble.

This is his third season, and the conversation surrounding Jones has so far been as much about turnovers as touchdowns.

“I think each situation is separate from the other, and I’ve got to learn from each one of them and correct them,” Jones said. “That’s the way I’m looking at it, and I’ve certainly studied this one from Sunday and trying to work on it.”

The Giants were without their best offensive weapon, running back Saquon Barkley, last year after he tore an ACL. For the past 11 months, Barkley has been rehabilitating and setting himself up for a comeback.

He played in the season opener, getting a modest 10 carries in 29 snaps, and that was a milestone. But after being limited much of training camp and the preseason, Barkley now will be asked to play his second game in five days.

That’s a challenge.

“I don’t think the schedule is ideal for coming back off a major knee injury to have two games back-to-back, but that’s what it is,” Barkley said. “That’s what’s in front of me and that’s the
challenge I have to face.

“To the question of my workload and how much can I handle, it’s easier for me to stay up here and say, ‘I don’t know, just listen to the coaches.’ When you’re in the game and your
adrenaline’s going and you start getting a rhythm and you start feeling yourself again, that can go from less reps or more reps, I don’t know to be honest.

“I’m just playing my role by showing up on Thursday.”

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The WFT is showing up with a curious quarterback situation. Fitzpatrick got hurt and Taylor Heinicke is the new starter.

That makes sense because Heinicke’s been with the club all offseason and has a connection to coach Ron Rivera, having played for Carolina in 2018.

What’s interesting is that Washington didn’t go looking for a starting quarterback in a familiar place following Sunday’s game. The club decided Cam Newton, who also has a history with Rivera in Carolina, is not the right fit.

Newton wasn’t the right fit when the New England Patriots cut him.

And he wasn’t the right fit when Fitzpatrick got hurt.

If this continues, pretty soon we’re going to figure out Washington doesn’t see Newton as the right fit.

So it’s Heinicke’s team, at least on Thursday.

“Something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life, being a starting quarterback in the NFL, and here we are,” Heinicke said Tuesday. “So, I really try and take it one day at a time, one meeting at a time, one play at a time. I feel like if I just live in the moment, everything else will take care of itself.

“I don’t try and get too ahead of myself. When we’re at practice, I just listen to the
play, remember what we talked about in meetings, what we’re trying to get accomplished, and really take it one play at a time.

“We’ll worry about the other stuff later.”

Heinicke will be making only his second NFL start. He lost his first one in 2018.

So the worrying later may begin on Thursday.

Twitter:@ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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