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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 24, 2017)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, November 25, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
December 2016 was the last time the Giants won two games in a row. And it seems like it was longer ago than even that. With much justification, critics will charge that the victories came against two bad football teams. But given that the Giants have been one of the very worst teams in football the past two seasons, this is measurable progress. Now comes the ultimate litmus test for the New York Giants – their long-time nemesis, the team that has treated them like little bitches since 2007.

In last week’s preview, I raised the following five questions:

  1. Is Pat Shurmur the right coach to turn this thing around?
  2. Is Dave Gettleman the right general manager?
  3. Who will quarterback this team in 2019?
  4. How do we improve the pass rush?
  5. Is the team getting better?

The jury is still out on Shurmur. To his credit, the team has not quit on him and what had been a pathetic offense has showed some signs of life the past two weeks. However, each week there seems to be in-game coaching issues, and that bears watching.

Dave Gettleman’s initial free agent period with the Giants was a disaster, while his draft class appears strong. Gettleman was roundly criticized for taking Saquon Barkley, but thus far, Barkley has lived up to the hype. Gettleman has also done a nice job in picking up a couple of players in-season that were cut loose by other teams such as Jamon Brown and Corey Coleman. This roster needs a ton of work however.

Just when many were ready to bury him for good, Eli Manning plays two strong, back-to-back games. These are the kind of games many of us expected from Eli entering the 2018 season. Can he keep it up? His loyal advocates continue to assert that if you give Eli time, he will play well. (That is true of most viable NFL quarterbacks). But he also may be at the stage of his career when he does better limiting his passing attempts (only 18 last week). Regardless, after a very rough first-half of the season, it is a safe bet that if Manning finishes 2018 on a high note, John Mara and Dave Gettleman are far more likely to hitch their wagon to him for another season.

The Giants continue to average a sack per game. This is a major problem that simply must be addressed in the offseason.

It feels like the team is getting better. Winning – even against bad teams – does that for you. The offense is clearly improving as the Giants have broken the 27 offensive point mark the past two games. The defense feels like a patch job holding on for dear life. Again, the truer litmus test will be on Sunday. Will the team regress back to its old form or will they begin to get that green monkey off of their back?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DE Kerry Wynn (concussion – out)

Even counting the players on Injured Reserve, this is the healthiest the Giants have been in memory.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The last time these two teams played in October, the Giants only scored 13 points, the touchdown coming when the game was already out-of-hand at 31-6. Once again, the Eagles’ defensive front abused the Giants’ offensive line. Saquon Barkley played well with 130 rushing yards and 99 receiving yards. But Eli Manning was terrible and threw a killer interception right off the bat. Odell Beckham was limited to 44 yards and Sterling Shepard to 37 yards.

The Eagles secondary is a mess with their top five corners are nursing injuries. On paper, Beckham and Shepard should eat this group alive. However, the primary issue remains. The Giants’ offensive front can’t seem to block the Eagles. Nate Solder, Chad Wheeler, John Greco (now benched), and Patrick Omameh (since cut) struggled in October. Hopefully, the presence of Jamon Brown will continue to improve the line, but both tackles need to play far better against the Eagles’ outside pass rushers.

So the key question here is do the Giants get away from worked so well against Tampa Bay and start throwing the ball more to take advantage of the Eagles’ secondary, while at the same time exposing Eli to hits and negative plays? Or do they minimize the passing attempts and rely on Saquon Barkley to carry the load?

Right or wrong, my guess is Pat Shurmur will be too tempted to throw the football more than he did last week. I hope he at least keeps some degree of balance because the Giants and Eli have gotten into trouble most times they start winging the ball all over the place. At this stage of his career, and during a season where he has already been sacked 36 times, relying on the run seems to settle Eli down.

The Eagles will undoubtedly double Odell. Sterling Shepard may be primed for a big game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

As Sy’56 discussed in his last game review, the Giants’ run defense has clearly deteriorated since the team traded away Damon Harrison. And covering anyone over the middle of the field continues to be a major problem. As discussed above, the Giants simply are unable to rush the passer with any degree of consistency.

The Eagles are struggling to run the football this year, falling to 25th in the NFL. They are 14th in passing. What remains interesting with them is their passing game appears almost exclusively focused on tight end Zach Ertz (an incredible 77 receptions, 5 touchdowns), wide receiver Nelson Agholor (46 catches, 1 touchdown), and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (37 catches, 4 touchdowns). No other target has more than 18 catches.

As much as Jeffery and Agholor can cause issues, most fans recognize that Ertz and fellow tight end Dallas Goedert (3 touchdowns) are the two most likely to feast on the Giants’ piss poor pass defense over the middle. The team also can’t ignore the backs despite the fact they haven’t been a major factor in the Philly pass attack in 2018.

The Giants need a good game by Janoris Jenkins from start to finish against Jeffery, and hope that B.W. Webb has another solid performance. Landon Collins did not play well the last time these two teams met.

The weaknesses are obvious. Put yourself in the shoes of an opposing offensive coordinator. He knows the Giants safeties and linebackers can’t cover. And the Giants can’t get any heat on the quarterback. Ertz has to be salivating.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Giants gave up a 23-yard punt return to the Eagles in October that helped to set up a touchdown. Aldrick Rosas had his only miss on the season too, from 52 yards out.

THE FINAL WORD:
The Eagles are most likely going to score more than 20 points against the Giants’ defense. So the Giants’ offense is going to have to keep up, and score touchdowns in the red zone. We are about to get a much better read on Eli Manning. He’s got to accept the fact that he is going to get hit in the mouth, and still make plays for his team to win.

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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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