How much is there to say, really? The New York Giants have a very bad offense, ranked 24th in DVOA. The Philadelphia Eagles have a very good defense, ranked third in DVOA. It’s been a struggle for the Giants to move the ball and score on just about every team this year, but this matchup may be the toughest. As it feels like the Giants have regressed on offense, if that’s possible, the Eagles have gotten better on defense. On that note, please enjoy this preview.
By the numbers
Rushing: 90.1 yards per game (28th), 3.8 yards per carry (t-22nd)
Passing: 206.1 yards per game (22nd), 6.0 yards per attempt (30th)
Total Yards: 296.2 yards per game (29th), 25.55 yards per drive (31st)
Points: 15.3 points per game (31st), 1.23 points per drive (32nd)
Rushing: 71.2 yards per game (first), 3.7 yards per carry (t-fourth)
Passing: 223.0 yards per game (13th), 6.5 yards per attempt (fourth)
Total Yards: 294.2 yards per game (fourth), 27.22 yards per drive (fourth)
Points: 19.2 points per game (t-fifth), 1.58 points per drive (fourth)
Pressure from everywhere
Jim Schwartz defenses are known for their ability and reliance to get pressure with the front four. Philadelphia has been able to do that this season, but Schwartz has also turned up the blitzing a bit in 2017. Last year the Eagles rushed four on a league-leading 79.3 percent of opponent drop backs and blitzed on 18.9 percent of those plays and they were third in defensive pressure rate among all teams, per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. This year, they’re blitzing on 25 percent of drop backs, which is 18th in the league, and they’re fifth in pressure rate.
The pressure can come from just about any player the Eagles throw out on defense -- especially along the line. Chris Long, who only plays 46.47 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, leads the team in individual pressures at 27.5 Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is right behind him at 26.5, defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are next at 24 and 23.5. The Eagles are the only team in the league to have four different players with at least 20 pressures. Only three others -- the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, and Atlanta Falcons -- have three.
Philadelphia can uses these blitzes to open up opportunities for the defensive line. Take this play from last week against the Los Angeles Rams. It’s 3rd and 4 near at midfield late on the first quarter with the Eagles already up 14-7. Philadelphia has four defensive linemen and linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) on the line of scrimmage with safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) close behind. The action here takes place in the middle, at the snap, Fletcher Cox (91) rushed the outside shoulder of the center to the side where running back Todd Gurley (30) was set for pass protection. But Jenkins looped around to the inside gap the center just vacated, which forced Gurley to run over and pick him up. That allowed Cox to blow past the center and have a free path to Jared Goff right as he attempted to get the pass off.
The Eagles won’t be hesitant to bring the pressure when the Giants are forced into obvious passing situations. Considering the Giants’ average drive has started trailing by four points -- the 25th-worst start in the league -- and the Eagles defense has a league-leading average drive start with a 7.7-point lead, those pass situations may come often.
Time to get creative with Evan Engram
Like much of the offense, the usage of Evan Engram has gone stale. This is not the fault of the rookie tight end, but the Giants have made him into roughly a two-trick pony this season -- and it took a while to get that second trick in the game plan. While he’s one of four rookies -- and the only tight end -- to have more than 50 receptions this season, those receptions haven’t done a whole lot to spark the Giants’ offense.
Among 44 tight ends with at least 25 targets this season, Engram ranks 42nd in Football Outsiders’ DYAR -- their counting stat -- and 35th in DVOA, which measures efficiency. Those numbers … are not great. Again, this is of little fault for Engram, himself. But if you take a look at what Engram’s role has been in the offense, it’s not a very efficient one. A majority of his passing game responsibilities come on crossing routes from the traditional tight end position. Here are what his targeted routes have looked like per NextGenStats from the available games -- Weeks 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 13.
There’s a whole lot of routes across the middle and not a lot in the slot or outside. And while there have been some splash plays, there haven’t been enough designed ones.
During his final year at Ole Miss, Engram led all tight ends in slot receptions, slot yards, and deep pass receptions (20+ yards), per the PFF draft guide. That has not been how Engram has been used in his time with the Giants. With little to play for and few other dynamic passing options available, it makes little sense to not expand Engram’s role and get him more involved in positions and passes where he can create an obvious mismatch and create big plays. That’s the player the Giants drafted, but it’s not the player the Giants have used. While the Eagles have one of the league’s best pass defenses, they are weakest defending opposing tight ends -- 19th in DVOA. This would be a good game to start.
Get better on second down
No team has more three-and-outs per drive this year than the Giants. The comes a year after the Giants had the second-most three and outs per drive. There’s failure all over the offense and it starts to compound with each play. On first downs in the first half -- before the games really get out of hand -- the Giants run the ball 58 percent of the time, per Sharp Football Stats, which is the sixth-highest run rate in the league. It’s a little predictable, but surprisingly, it’s worked. On second downs in the first half, the Giants average 7.31 yards to go, which is actually the fourth-best to-go rate in the league. The problem is the Giants have averaged a league-worst 3.95 yards on those second downs. They’re the only offense in the league below an average of 4.0 yards.
That still sets them up with some manageable third downs -- their 6.72 yards to-go on third down is tied for the sixth-lowest -- but the Giants convert just 33.7 of those third downs, the fourth-worst conversion rate in the league.
If the poor performance on second down could improve, not only would there hypothetically be more third down conversions, the Giants could face less third downs overall.
A plea for Paul Perkins
It’s clear Paul Perkins has fallen out of the running back rotation -- five snaps over the past three games -- after starting the first four games of the season. Perkins was running behind a line that routinely allowed defenders to get behind it and stop runs in the backfield. As Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman took a bigger role, the offensive line also improved thanks in part to the move of Justin Pugh to tackle and the insertion of D.J. Fluker at guard.
This isn’t a plea to let Perkins have more playing time, but this is one to let him get a touchdown if the situation arises. Now this isn’t the offense where touchdowns are a common enough occurrence to just be throwing them around to different players, but there’s a case for making the effort to get Perkins into the end zone. In his two seasons in the league, Perkins has 147 rushing attempts and has yet to score a touchdown. That is either the most or second-most for an active player without a touchdown depending on how you view Daryl Richardson (169 rushing attempts) who has not played since 2016, but is not technically retired. It should also be noted Wayne Gallman is fifth on the active list among players with 78 carries and no touchdowns.
Despite Perkins’s carry total, he hasn’t really gotten a chance to get the ball close to the goal line. Over the past two seasons, he’s only had 12 total carries inside the 20. Perkins also has 22 career receptions with no touchdowns, which brings his total to 169 touches without a trip to the end zone.
With not a much to celebrate for the rest of the year, getting Perkins into the end zone would be something.