Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 11, 2018
One of my chief complaints about the New York Giants in recent years is that not only have they not been competitive, but they have not been competitive in an oft-overrated division filled with mediocre-at-best teams. Here we are again. The Giants are 1-4. Yet the Washington Redskins are leading the division with a 2-2 record. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have losing records at 2-3. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last year, but the Giants actually could send them to basement of a bad division with a win on Thursday night.
Most Giants fans will correctly be looking at the W-L division ramifications of this game. Last weekend’s loss should have killed the Giants season. But it did not because every team in the NFC East also lost. The Giants are still not dead. They actually could crawl back into playoff contention despite their .200 winning percentage. But my focus won’t be so much on that, but whether not the Giants found a coach who can get the Philadelphia Eagles monkey off of their back. The Eagles have won 16 of the last 20 games these two teams have played. That’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing. Enough.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- WR Jawill Davis (shoulder – probable)
- TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
- TE Rhett Ellison (foot – questionable)
- WR Russell Shepard (neck – out)
- DE Josh Mauro (groin – probable)
- LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – probable)
- LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
- PK Aldrick Rosas (right quad – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Speaking of getting monkeys off your back, the Giants finally broke the 30-point barrier. Still, the offense is capable of so much more. Last week, a dropped 4th-down pass, an embarrassing 0-of-7 on 3rd-down conversion attempts, subpar run blocking, and bad interceptions were issues or the Giants would have won the game. But we learned what many of us have been preaching – get the ball into the hands of Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, and Sterling Shepard and good things will happen. The Giants should always be tough to defend.
If you were to ask me what is the #1 reason for the Eagles owning the Giants, I would tell you it has been the way their defensive front has abused the Giants’ offensive line. And this is the main point of concern once again. Last year’s starting offensive line is completely gone. None of them are left. But the problems remain. There was one very telling statistic from last week. Barkley ran for 48 yards on 15 carries DESPITE two of his runs picking up 50 yards. Let that sink in for a minute. And consider one of those two big runs happened when Barkley avoided an unblocked defender with a nifty spin move. Barkley is a stud. He can take over a game all by himself but the offensive line and tight ends are not helping him enough. It’s embarrassing. Get a hat on a hat and give Barkley a chance. All he needs is a little room.
I will continue to harp on running the ball all season for two reasons. One, Barkley is simply that good. He’s capable of 200-yard rushing games. Second, it takes pressure off of Eli Manning. Our quarterback is still driving me nuts. His turnovers last weekend were bad, and the second one should have ended the game. But he alternates that with what should have been a dramatic come-from-behind win with 15 4th-quarter points. “God damn it Eli!”… “Way to go Eli!” Ugh…
In the 16 out of 20 losses, aside from the occasional special teams disaster or the Victor Cruz injury, the lasting images have been Eli getting clobbered and/or turning the ball over with a fumble or interception. Again and again. The Eagles are still deep and talented up front. Giants fans are well familiar with DT Fletcher Cox (3 sacks) and DE Brandon Graham (1 sack). Add DE Derek Barnett (2.5 sacks) and DT Haloti Ngata (1 sack; late note, Ngata has been ruled out of this game) as starters, and reserves such as DE Michael Bennett (1 sack) and DE Chris Long (1 sack). Then there are linebackers Jordan Hicks (1.5 sacks) and Nigel Bradham (1 sack). The Eagles are 10th overall in team defense (7th in scoring defense). And it all starts up front with them.
This is pretty simple. If the Eagles once again dominate the line of scrimmage against the Giants, they will once again rough up Eli and force him to make the killer turnover. But if the Giants can run the ball just enough with Barkley hitting on a few big plays, and Eli stands tough in the pocket just long enough to connect with Beckham and Shepard (the latter who hurt the Eagles twice last year), then the Giants have a chance. But theses guys can’t make the killer mistakes like they did last week… the dumb interceptions, the dropped passes, etc. When the big play is there, the Giants must nail it. Sustaining long drives with short pick-ups is very difficult against the Eagles.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
All Giants fans were thinking the same thing last weekend: the Giants left too much time on the clock. We have no faith in the defense making a 4th-quarter stop because this has been an issue for years now under multiple defensive coordinators. The excuse “the defense did enough to win” wears thin when you keep losing. The Giants finally got a couple of turnovers last week, but they still are only averaging a sack per game, and given the chance to seal the deal with 68 seconds left, they couldn’t do it. Make a play to win the game!
Offensively, the Eagles have not been sharp. They have given up 17 sacks on the season and they are -4 in the turnover differential department (8 interceptions, 1 fumble lost). And the Eagles just lost their leading rusher, Jay Ajayi, with an ACL tear. Interestingly, by far, their leading pass receivers are tight end Zach Ertz (already 41 receptions for 437 yards) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (29 receptions for 212 yards). These two account for over half of all the team’s receptions. Part of that is due to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery missing the first three games. He had 8 receptions in his first game back and just two last week.
Incredibly, Carson Wentz is already back despite tearing an ACL late last season. He started the last three games and is completing 67 percent of his passes with a 5-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. He’s the real deal. The one knock on him thus far is three lost fumbles (he’s actually fumbled the ball 26 times in three years, losing nine). Personally, I’d be scared to death if I were an Eagles’ fan that the organization has rushed Wentz back too fast. It sounds shitty, but hit him. Get him thinking about his knee.
There have been many reasons why the Giants have had so much turnover in the front office, coaching staffs, and players in recent years, but perhaps one of the root causes has been the team’s inability to compete with the Eagles. Now at least on this side of the ball, it is James Bettcher’s turn. Olivier Vernon may be back. We don’t know how effective he will be. But the Giants must get some sort of pass rush on Wentz, by scheme if they have to. Assuming Janoris Jenkins and Jeffery are locked up, the obvious focus becomes defending favorite targets Ertz and Agholor. While tight ends across the league have killed the Giants in recent years, and fans love to focus on what Dallas’ Jason Witten did to the team, the Eagles’ tight ends have been especially deadly for New York. Aside from Ertz, don’t sleep on rookie tight end Dallas Goedert (12 catches).
The Eagles love to run the ball. But with Ajayi out and the NYG strength being run defense, we may see a more pass-heavy game plan from the Eagles this week. This is another opponent where I try to get my better athletes on the field to deal with the tight ends and backs out of the backfield.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the biggest reason’s why the Giants lost last week was the turnover on the return game. Based on what we’ve seen since the preseason, it was only a matter of time. First and foremost, the returner game has to secure the football.
Those who have watched the Eagles over the years know one of the reasons they have stolen so many games where they have been out-played has been their special teams. The are example #1 on how special teams can be the difference in an 8-8 season and an 11-5 season.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the Eagles’ defense: “I think the Eagles’ defense starts with their front four and they rotate them. They have eight guys up and they rotate them all the time, keep them fresh and they’re very disruptive in the run and the pass. That’s going to be the challenge for us initially, block the front four so that we can run it and throw it.”
THE FINAL WORD:
Pat Shurmur served a couple of coaching stints with the Eagles. He’s familiar with the team and how and why they have had so much success against the Giants. There is a school of thought that the Giants finally showed some emotion last week and are beginning to come together as a team. That may be true, but team building is cemented with success, not failure. The Giants need to start experiencing some success soon or this will all fall apart again. That was a very tough loss (a 63-yard field goal?!!!!), and this is a short week. If I was going on historical experience, I would say this is a very tough spot for the Giants. The Eagles are the better team with the better quarterback. But anything can happen during these crazy short-week Thursday night games.