Oct 292009
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, November 1, 2009: It’s not time to panic, but it is time to be somewhat concerned. A two-game losing streak will do that to you. This is especially when the upcoming opponent is a divisional rival that has beaten you twice in a row, including the playoffs.

Contrary to many, I do not consider this game a “must win” for the Giants. I think the Giants need to at least split their two games with the Eagles this year. Winning in Philadelphia would obviously reduce the pressure on New York and give them a 3-0 advantage in the NFC East. Losing would cause them to fall half a game behind the Eagles in the division.

Not to sound overly crude, but the Giants need to get their shit together. After an impressive 5-0 start, the defense played like crap against the Saints and the passing game (mainly Eli) and special teams played like crap against the Cardinals. The Giants need to get out of this funk and back on track. Now would be an excellent time to do so. But the Eagles may not be very accommodating.

Giants on Offense: The Giants are thinking too much. They are trying to be too cute…too perfect. This is on Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride, and Eli Manning. Get back to your roots and run freaking Brandon Jacobs behind that talented offensive line. Eli and the Giants are spending too much time in their pre-snap reads, worrying about what the defense is going to do and trying to react to it. Screw that! Dictate to the defense! Get out of the huddle, snap the ball, and run the damn play! In fact, I would try to cross the Eagles up by doing just that. I’m not talking about a hurry-up offense or the no huddle (though the latter has worked against the Eagles in the past). I’m talking about getting up to the line of scrimmage quickly out of the huddle and quickly getting the ball snapped. The Eagles would not expect it and I think it would put them a bit back on their heels.

We know what the Eagles are on defense. They are all about bringing the house with blitzes designed to confuse and disrupt. They take chances in the secondary by playing aggressive man coverage. If the Giants play true to form, that means Coughlin, Gilbride, and Manning will “take what the defense is giving them” and start taking deep shots down the field. I would do this a couple times, but I wouldn’t get away from the ground game. Pound the Eagles by running right at them. Wear them down. It may not be pretty at first, but don’t give up the run. The Eagles are very athletic in the front seven, but they are not the biggest or most stout defense out there. Take advantage of that by being very physical in the running game.

When the Giants do put the ball up, they don’t NEED to always take big shots down field to make the Eagles pay for their aggressiveness. Screen passes, quick slants, tosses to the tight ends can expose an overly-aggressive defense. I’d love to see some quick slants to Mario Manningham or Hakeem Nicks. I’d like to see Kevin Boss or Travis Beckum used more in the passing game.

To me, this is a quarterback’s game. The Giants need Eli Manning to out-play Donovan McNabb. If he plays better and the Giants have fewer mistakes and turnovers, they will win.

The Giants’ offensive coaches have to do a better job of schemes and play calling in the red zone. For too long, the Giants have struggled scoring touchdowns and settling for field goals. Lawrence Tynes is leading the NFL in scoring this year because of it. There is too much talent on this team to leave that many points off the scoreboard. Fix it!

Giants on Defense: For the third game in a row, this is a bad time to be without Michael Boley and Aaron Ross, especially Boley. The Eagles have a lot of dangerous athletes at the skill positions and the Giants may have the least athletic linebacking corps in the NFL without Boley (the Giants really need to address this once and for all in the offseason). If the Eagles are smart – and they like to do this anyway – they will spread the Giants out and try to expose the linebackers and safeties in coverage.

The Eagles run a true West Coast Offense. What that means is they will stretch a field both horizontally and vertically in the passing game. In the last two losses to the Eagles, Donovan McNabb has helped to negate the Giants’ pass rush by quickly getting rid of the ball to his receivers, who are often the running backs and tight ends. It remains to be seen if Brian Westbrook (concussion) plays, but the Eagles have enough talent to survive with HB LeSean McCoy, TE Brent Celek, and FB Leonard Weaver. And watch out for quick tosses to the extremely dangerous DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jason Avant can run too. There is a lot of athleticism in that group.

The Giants will have to play smart, fundamentally-sound football. Good athletes can make you look bad. Watch out for misdirection – plays designed to take advantage of the Giants’ over-aggressiveness. See how the Eagles exposed the backside pursuit of the Redskins with the reverse to Jackson on Monday night. Watch out for screens. Watch out for draws in obvious passing situations. And of course, the Eagles are one of the teams out there who have a variety of plays that they can run with the Wild Cat formation, including, but not limited to, the use of Michael Vick.

To me, this game is on the Giants’ defensive line. The line has not played as well as hoped this year. The Eagles’ offensive line is in a bit of a transition. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka have to get to McNabb. Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, and Rocky Bernard have to play much, much better (what a disappointment Cofield and Bernard have been in particular). Get to McNabb. Hit him. Sack his ass.

The Giants’ defensive coaches have to come up with better schemes and play calls in the red zone. The Giants have the worst red zone defense in the NFL. That’s unacceptable given the level of talent the Giants have on defense.

Giants on Special Teams: DeSean Jackson is exceptionally dangerous on punt returns, but also don’t forget about Ellis Hobbs on kickoff returns. Jeff Feagles needs a big rebound game after his worst game as a Giant. Don’t even give Jackson an opportunity to burn you. Punt and kickoff coverage will be crucial this week, perhaps even decisive.

And the Giants need a big rebound game from their own punt and kickoff return units as well. Domenik Hixon was held in check last week.

Giants need Lawrence Tynes to come through this week.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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