Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 22, 2020
Yes, the stupid competitor in me says there is still a chance. Unbelievably, at 1-5, the New York Giants are only one game behind the division “leading” 2-4 Dallas Cowboys (who also currently own the head-to-head advantage too). Indeed, had the Giants not lost a very winnable game against the Cowboys, one where they led both early and late, New York would be in first place right now with a chance to go 3-0 in the division on Thursday night. That’s crazy.
But this is fool’s gold. The Giants are not a good team. The offense has scored more than 16 points in a game only once. They are 31st in yards and scoring. (Thank you Jets!) While the defense is more respectable, they have continued an excessively annoying inability to stop the other team late in the 2nd and 4th quarters. As expected, fan ire has turned on the usual scapegoats, the quarterback and the coaching staff. Despite the attempts of myself and others to repeatedly warn others about the shocking lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball (especially after the loss of Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard), many fans simply refuse to accept reality. They don’t seem to recognize that defenses stacked the box against Barkley and put a linebacker and safety on him on passing plays, opening things up for everyone else.
I told my wife this week, “If you put the skill position players from all 32 teams in a field and had the teams pick players one at a time from that group, you’d have a bunch of New York Giants left there at the end.” Yes, it is that bad. But we now have fans complaining that Jason Garrett doesn’t know how to use a tight end! (Actually, think about that statement for a moment). Or Daniel Jones is a bust because he’s not putting up 30 points a game with a washed up Golden Tate and undrafted rookie Austin Mack playing wide receiver. The team’s leading rusher isn’t a running back. And the Giants are still playing musical chairs on the offensive line. Dave Brown had much better offensive talent around him in the 1990s, and that’s saying something.
One of the craziest posts I saw this week is the suggestion that the Giants trade for a wide receiver. This is a 1-5 team that is probably going to win about 3-4 games this year and one that has already traded away two of its seven 2021 draft picks (we have five picks left). Even if by some miracle the Giants were able to win the NFC East with a 5-11 or 6-10 record, so what? You can’t rebuild a ball club by trading away picks, even low ones. How far away are the Giants from being a serious contender? Look no farther than the Junior Varsity 49ers beating the Giants 36-9 last month.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s look to the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles. They are obviously struggling too. And like the Giants, they come into this game with a lot of injury issues. Statistically, the Eagles are better on offense than the Giants but worse on defense. On paper, this looks like a toss-up. But there’s that ugly, little sticking point: the Eagles own the Giants. They have won 12 of the last 13 games. And until proven otherwise, the Giants will continue to be their little bitches. It sucks. One of my son’s best friends is an Eagles’ fan. Do you think he wants to hear it from his friend again?
THE INJURY REPORT
- RB Dion Lewis (hand – probable)
- WR Darius Slayton (foot – probable)
- WR C.J. Board (concussion – out)
- LB Tae Crowder (hamstring – out – on Injured Reserve)
- CB Darnay Holmes (neck – questionable)
- S Adrian Colbert (shoulder – out)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE
The curious decision by Joe Judge to carry four wide receivers is starting to impact the Giants. At one point last Sunday, the team was down to two healthy wideouts: the washed up Golden Tate (19 catches for 156 yards and no touchdowns) and undrafted rookie free agent Austin Mack who was playing in his first game (Mack finished with one catch for one yard). With below average journeyman C.J. Board out and Darius Slayton still battling a nagging foot injury, the Giants are on shaky ground here. Unless they activate Sterling Shepard from IR, they obviously need to bring up another body from the Practice Squad such as Binjimen Victor, Alex Bachman, or Derrick Dillon. Needless to say, even a mediocre Eagles defense is not trembling in their sneakers.
As I expected and predicted last week, the Giants featured the ground game as New York ran the ball more than they passed. This includes Daniel Jones, who has now become a viable weapons with his feet. Opponent game plans are obvious, don’t let Slayton or Evan Engram beat you. Once again, I would think the Giants go into this game on Thursday with a heavy emphasis on the ground attack. Not only has it been easier to run on the Eagles than throwing (just like the Redskins), but by doing so, the coaching staff protects the weapon-deprived Daniel Jones and the still-evolving offensive line. It’s boring. It is isn’t conducive to scoring a lot of points (see last Sunday). But in a game that will probably be decided by the turnover margin (again, like the game against the Redskins), it’s probably the smart choice.
Say what you will about the Eagles’ defense (12th against the pass, 21st against the run), they are still well-coached and are filled with players who are simply used to owning the New York Giants, especially up front at the line of scrimmage. If Joe Judge and Jason Garrett are going to turn this “rivalry” around, then it must come up front. Judge says the Giants will continue to rotate at offensive tackle, with Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, and Cam Fleming all receiving playing time. The Giants need a strong game from the interior trio against old nemesis Fletcher Cox and company.
Run the football. Keep down-and-distance situations manageable. Don’t do anything stupid. In a low-scoring game, punting and winning the field position battle are often the right choice.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE
Patrick Graham is doing a darn good job given the issues the Giants have at edge rusher and in the secondary. The one glaring exception to that is the continued inability to play respectable defense at the end of both halves of each game. That has bitten the team in the ass repeatedly this year, costing them games and almost costing them their first win. They have to clean that up. It’s becoming a mental thing.
The problem that Graham is facing now is that the linebacking position has taken a big hit. In a matter of a couple of weeks, they have lost Lorenzo Carter (starter who was playing better), Oshane Ximines (who was starting over Markus Golden), and Tae Crowder (a new starter who won the game last week). Yes, the Giants are still getting good linebacker play out of Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, but to lose three starters at one position is a hit that even good teams can ill-afford. The loss of Crowder stands out in this contest as he is the type of mobile, athletic linebacker the Giants have lacked in their match-up with Eagles’ tight ends and running backs in coverage.
Darnay Holmes also dealing with a neck injury has also complicated matters. Last week, the Giants were forced to shift Logan Ryan inside to corner and play Julian Love, who had been benched, at safety. The good news is that Ryan Lewis appears to have settled down the corner spot opposite of James Bradberry somewhat. Still, this is a very shallow group that simply cannot afford another injury.
The Eagles are really beat up on the offensive side of the football. Some of their key injured players will play, but some important ones who have killed the Giants in the past such as tight end Zach Ertz and running back Miles Sanders will not. Nevertheless, it always seems like some no-name player on the Eagles makes a name for himself on national television against the Giants. Again, if Judge wants to turn this “rivalry” around, that shit has to stop.
The Eagles are 27th in offense (26th in passing, 13th in rushing). Stating the obvious, stop the run. Make Carson Wentz and his injured receiving corps beat you. Control the line of scrimmage against an offensive line that has also been dealing with injury issues and struggling. This is the time for the big boys up front to earn their paychecks. Most importantly, with the game on the line late in the halves, stop the other team!
One final note, I hope the defense keeps an eye on quarterback Jalen Hurts. He can be used in a variety of ways on trick plays.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
If the Giants are going to win this game, I think they have to win the turnover battle and I think they have to make an impact play on special teams. And this would be typical of a Giants-Eagles game. Now would be an opportune time for a blocked kick.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH
Head Coach Joe Judge on Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense: “It all goes through No. 11 for them right there. He’s a big armed quarterback, can make any throw he needs to on the field, so you have to defend the entire field. What that does is that opens up the deep balls with guys like (DeSean) Jackson coming back this week and Alshon (Jeffery – late note: Jefferey won’t play). It also opens up the tight ends underneath and the running backs. They’re great catch-and-run running backs. You can create a screen or a check down for these guys… I think Carson’s doing a really good job. I think when he runs the ball, he’s a big, physical, tough guy. He can extend plays. You can’t just tackle this guy like any quarterback. You have to treat him like a running back in the open space. You have to wrap him up and get him on the ground. This guy runs physical. You watch that run against Baltimore last week, he’s not looking to get out of bounds. He’s looking to extend it vertically and gain as many yards as he can. This guy is a good quarterback.”
THE FINAL WORD
The Eagles may be struggling, but if you watched them against the Ravens last week, you see there is no quit in that team. They are one of the very best coached teams in the game on offense, defense, and special teams. And probably most importantly, they expect to beat the Giants. Why wouldn’t they?
I wrote this last week: “If the Giants beat Washington and go on to win several more game this year, that will be a positive step in the right direction. But if this is another case of a meaningless, temporary feel-good win against a bad Washington team followed by loss-loss-loss-loss, then it won’t mean much.”
What will it be New York?