Commanders could be without 3 starters for crucial game vs NY Giants
By Jerry Trotta
For what feels like the fourth time in 2022, the Washington Commanders are preparing for their biggest game of the season. A 6-1 stretch has seen Washington catapult up the standings and claim the No. 7 seed in the NFC. The team right above them is the NY Giants, who they’ll lock horns with on Sunday.
The Commanders opened the week as -1.5 favorites, but that line has since jumped to -2.5, suggesting some money has come in on Ron Rivera’s group. That might be surprising given the players the Giants are expected to get back from injury … and the fact Washington is dealing with its own injury concerns.
On Wednesday, Washington was back on the practice field to prepare for the rivalry game. Unfortunately, the team was without three starters — two of whom missed Week 12, and one who left injured in the game.
Those players are cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, who tweaked his ankle against the Texans, and offensive guard Trai Turner, who’s battling knee and ankle injuries. Additionally, Dax Milne, the team’s primary punt returner, was given a DNP designation after working on the side with trainers.
Injury report: Commanders could be down 3 starters vs the Giants.
St-Juste is obviously the big concern, but fans can breath a sigh of relief knowing the cornerback isn’t dealing with the dreaded high-ankle sprain. ESPN’s John Keim understands it’s a mid-ankle sprain, so this shouldn’t be a long-term injury.
While the Commanders should keep New York’s middling receiver room at bey, it’ll be interesting to see who’s tasked with covering Darius Slayton, who’s quietly averaged 77.5 receiving yards per game the last four weeks.
That stretch includes two games with over 85 receiving yards, so he’s really provided a spark to a listless Giants passing attack.
Kendall Fuller would be everyone’s first choice, but Slayton is a premier deep threat, and Fuller isn’t exactly renowned for his athleticism. Does that mean rookie seventh-round pick Christian Holmes will draw the assignment? It’s anyone’s guess, but St-Juste’s absence does spark a little bit of concern.
Perhaps even more alarming is the fact Antonio Gibson (foot) was held out of Thursday’s practice. While Brian Robinson has finally turned a corner as a rookie, Gibson has flourished as the chance-of-pace back — both as a runner and pass-catcher — and leads the team with five total touchdowns.
Gibson’s injury is definitely something to monitor. Let’s hope the coaching staff is merely giving the back a veteran rest day.
Turner’s injury isn’t as concerning, but his play has improved dramatically since he was benched way back in Week 4. Sam Cosmi’s been filling in at right guard (Cornelius Lucas at right tackle) and should make a seamless transition, though he’s still feeling the effects of hand surgery.
The line could even have extra insurance after Wes Schweitzer was given a return to practice designation. The veteran guard has missed the last 9 nine games with a concussion. His return would be huge in light of Turner’s injury.
Elsewhere, Chase Young (knee), Logan Thomas (rib) and Tyler Larsen (shoulder) were all limited on both Wednesday and Thursday. We’ll know more about their respective statuses closer to the weekend.
With a bye week up next for the Commanders, you have to wonder if the coaching staff will hold some of these players out to give them an extra week of rest so they’re fully healthy for the final four games on the schedule.