Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 6, 2013: Because the NFC East is so bad, I’m hesitant to say the season is over if the New York Giants lose this game. After all, if the Broncos beat the Cowboys, and if the Eagles beat the Giants, the Giants will still only be two games out of first place with 11 games to play.
But the Giants will be 0-2 in the division. The Eagles will be 2-0 in the division. And the Cowboys and Eagles will at least temporarily hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Most importantly, psychologically, if the Giants lose this game, that may be the final nail in the coffin.
For all intents and purposes, this is basically a playoff game for the Giants. Win and they’ll have a pulse. It may be faint, but it will be there.
As an aside, I hope the veteran Giants players who have been with the team for some time realize the significance of this season. Whether this season is a success, failure, or something in between, this is that last rodeo for this group. Over the course of the last few years, we’ve seen stalwarts like Umenyiora, Bradshaw, Seubert, O’Hara, McKenzie, Smith, Phillips, Cofield, and others depart, not to mention the old crew of Strahan, Pierce, Toomer, Burress, and others. This is likely it for Snee, Tuck, Webster, Diehl, Jacobs, and Ross. It could be for Rolle, Kiwanuka, Boothe, and Baas. And who knows if the Giants will be able to re-sign Nicks and Joseph? These players should be fighting for each other at this point. This is it for them with the New York Giants. These are players that helped the Giants win one or two NFL titles. Go down swinging fellas!
And…if they want to think more selfishly…they should take a long, hard look at how “middle-class” free agents have been priced out of the NFL due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There is no guarantee they will find work anywhere again unless they play (get off the damn injury list) and play well. In other words, if you want to play in the NFL in 2014, you had better start making some plays.
New York Giants on Special Teams: I’m starting off with this unit this week because special teams have been a disaster for the Giants and a major reason why the Giants are 0-4. I have no idea what is going on with Steve Weatherford, but he needs to get his head out of his ass and regain his directional punting skills. And the Giants have already given up two punt returns for touchdowns. Josh Brown has missed his last two field goals. That being said, the Eagles have also struggled on special teams and David Wilson and Rueben Randle seem poised for big returns. Damontre Moore has not only blocked two punts (one in the preseason), but he’s flashing on coverage teams. Division games often come down to special teams.
New York Giants on Offense: Eli Manning has to settle down and realize the line is what it is and deal with it. We’ve seen him play in that beast mode before where it didn’t matter how many times he was hit (see the 2011 NFC Championship Game). Find the open man and quickly hit him. Every throw doesn’t have to be a home-run strike. If the Giants are going to get out of this funk, they need Eli to play like the 2011 edition. Be smart and take what is the defense gives you.
That said, Eli needs help. Victor Cruz is doing his job. More was expected and is needed from Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle. Both can and should be impact players. Cruz, Nicks, and Randle accrued 300 yards receiving against the Cowboys in the opener. It’s time to get back to that type of production. It’s not a pipe dream – they are all capable of 100-yard receiving games.
I think David Wilson is about to have a big game if the coaches will only feed him the ball. The absence of Da’Rel Scott (waived) should increase his touches, but those might go to Brandon Jacobs. I’d give them to Wilson. He’s been running well between the tackles – he’s not just an outside guy.
The Eagles have been terrible against the run (26th) and pass (31st) on defense. But they are a high-pressure defense that like to confuse its opponent with a variety of looks and blitzes. That could give the Giants’ blockers problems, but the Chiefs may have helped the Giants prepare for that type of helter-skelter assault. Nevertheless, the line has been reshuffled once again, now with David Diehl in at right guard for James Brewer. He will bring passion, experience, and leadership to the line. Hopefully he brings talent too and isn’t too rusty after the long layoff.
The back end of the Eagles defense is a mess. Don’t turn the football over. Get the ball into the hands of your play-makers: Cruz, Nicks, Randle, and Wilson. Everything doesn’t have to be a home run. Get some rhythm going, pick up some first downs, and get into the end zone.
Start off strong and the crowd will get behind you.
New York Giants on Defense: There are a number of challenges this week for a defense that played better last week. On the injury front, the Giants may be without their starting defensive tackles (Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph). In addition, corners Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, and Aaron Ross did not practice this week and are likely out. That means the second-team defensive tackles (Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson) have to come up big as well as fifth-string tackle Johnathan Hankins. At corner, Trumaine McBride may have to start opposite of Prince Amukamara if Terrell Thomas remains in the slot. Depth will be non-existent unless the Giants activate Charles James from the Practice Squad. In a pinch, Will Hill and Antrel Rolle might be able to play some corner.
The depth issues could be exacerbated by the well-publicized aspects of Chip Kelly’s fast-break offense. The Eagles will go up tempo, attempt to tire out the defense, and prevent substitutions. This type of offense can backfire on the Eagles if (and this is the big if), the Giants can force three-and-outs. Then it will be the Eagles’ defense that gets tired out.
The regime may have changed, but the play-makers are still the same: RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, and QB Michael Vick. But now they have been inserted into this high-octane offense that is second in the NFL.
McCoy has been a Giant-killer. But again, seeing so much of Jamaal Charles last week should help the Giants prepare for McCoy a bit. He’s dangerous as a runner and receiver, and again the linebackers and safeties will have their hands full. The Eagles will also try to match-up Jackson on the Giants’ weaker corners. They’d love to test Terrell Thomas and Trumaine McBride with Jackson’s quickness and deep speed.
As for Vick, he seems just as fast as ever, and when he’s on, he can throw some amazing passes. But this offense exposes him to a lot of hits and he isn’t the toughest guy in the world. The Giants are going to have to hit him every chance they get. And when the Eagles run read option-type plays, as Joey in VA has been complaining about since last year, the defensive ends must not get suckered into playing the inside run too aggressively. That leaves the outside open for a big run by the quarterback or back. The defensive line is dying to start finally accumulating some sacks, but they have to play smart and disciplined against this offense.
It’s going to be tough. The Giants’ defense will be undermanned and they won’t be able to substitute like they want. They are going to have to suck it up and just realize this is going to be fast-break football. Focus on McCoy and Jackson. Hit Vick. Get off the damn field and make the fast-paced tempo work against Philadelphia.
Again, early success by the defense will get the crowd in your corner.