Will the Giants’ revolving cast of defensive players be able to slow down the Wentz-less Eagles?
After a disappointing defensive collapse last week by the New York Giants, they take on another division rival this week in the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants played well for most of the game against the Dallas Cowboys, until giving up three touchdowns in less than five minutes in the fourth quarter. Admittedly, last week was very difficult on both the players and the coaches as the Giants’ ownership terminated both the head coach and general manager, a franchise first. Amid all the upset the remaining coaches and players had to adapt to their new reality. They can look forward to a more normal week of preparation this week, which might make a difference.
At the face of it, this is a match-up of one of the league’s worst defenses against one of its best offenses. However, considering the injury to Carson Wentz and the nature of divisional games, this game could be harder to predict.
The Giants have the chance to redeem themselves, and the last second loss from the beginning of the season. But will they be able to do so?
By the numbers
Rushing Yards - 143.0 (2nd)
Passing Yards - 247.5 (11th)
Total Yards - 390.5 (3rd)
Points - 31.1 (1st)
*Note: The Eagles’ offensive production is with Carson Wentz at quarterback.
Rushing Yards - 130.0 (31st)
Passing Yards - 265.7 (31st)
Total Yards - 395.7 (32nd)
Points - 24.7 (27th)
Who are these guys?
Even for a team that was the three-year reigning injury dynasty before a relatively healthy 2016, the Giants’ injury situation in 2017 has been ridiculous. While it is no excuse for the team’s performance, it is awfully tough to play football when your active roster is reshuffling every week.
The problem is now that even if they decide to up the aggression and attack the offense — instead of relying on three-man rushes and offensive mistakes into heavy coverage — they might not have the players to do so.
While the ethos is always “next man up!”, backups tend to be backups for a reason, and the disparity in talent (not to mention practice time), weighs on a team.
At some point it seems likely that a defensive player’s name will be called, and the collective reaction will be “Who?”
Make Foles look like a backup
The quarterback is the most important position on the football field, maybe in all of sports (though I suppose soccer and hockey goalies might have something to say about that). It is almost certainly the hardest.
The Eagles were enjoying MVP-caliber play at the quarterback position with second-year signal caller Carson Wentz. That, unfortunately, all went away last Sunday when Wentz tore his ACL diving for a touchdown.
The Eagles still won the game with Nick Foles, who they originally drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft, before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams (then in St. Louis) for Sam Bradford. The next year he signed a two-year deal with Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs, only to have the Chiefs decline his second-year option, making him a free agent.
Foles is capable of efficient play, throwing 27 touchdown passes to just two interceptions in his 2013 Pro Bowl campaign. That, however, was easily the best year of his career and his play fell off as the team disintegrated under Chip Kelly.
If the Giants want to have a chance at coming away with a win and denting the Eagles’ playoff run (perhaps giving other teams a blueprint on them), the best way will be to make Foles look like a backup quarterback and not a Pro Bowler. The Giants can’t count on their offense to do much of anything, so they will need plays from their defense to set them up with good field position. And while Foles is typically efficient, the last time he played appreciable snaps — 2014 for the Eagles and 2015 for the Rams — he threw a combined 20 interceptions (10 in each year), in 19 starts.
Stop the run
The Eagles got on their run way back in Week 3 when the Giants singularly failed to stop LeGarrette Blount. Between their inability to stifle the Eagles’ running game and the Giants’ own warp-speed offense, the defense was simply gassed long before the game was over.
If they want to even think about getting after Foles, they’ll need to put the Eagles in passing situations, which means stopping the run on early downs. It certainly doesn’t help that two of their best players — Damon Harrison and Landon Collins — have been banged up, and Collins might wind up being shut down for his own good.
The Eagles, on the other hand, added a weapon in the run game in Jay Ajayi. Since coming up from Miami he has picked up 287 yards on 44 carries, or more than 6.3 yards per carry — though he has only scored a single touchdown. It will be hard for the Giants to stop the Eagles’ running game. They haven’t tackled well all year and their defense is depleted. On top of that, if Harrison is limited, Philly will undoubtedly attack the middle of the Giants’ defense. It has been a constant tactic all year long — teams to the outside when Harrison is on the field, but attack the middle when he isn’t.
Dalvin Tomlinson has played very well this season, but he, along with the rest of the defensive front will need to step up and help Snacks out.