The Philadelphia Eagles come to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants Sunday night (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). That will give Giants fans a chance to spew some venom at former Giant and current Eagle wide receiver Steve Smith, who famously changed sides in the rivalry this preseason.
This also gives us a chance to talk about many of the decisions that general manager Jerry Reese either made or had forced him upon him that have affected this team.
Before we do that, though, I have to toss this out there. Will Smith react better than New York Jets coach Rex Ryan did when someone in the MetLife crowd inevitably screams "Hey Steve, Victor Cruz is better than you."
While you ponder that, let's get back to my reason for posting this -- which is to talk about Reese and some of the moves that have shaped this roster.
Let's be realistic here. Reese deserves a ton of credit for sticking to his plan, for believing in the young, often unproven talent he has collected over the past couple of seasons. The GM has again proven that he has a keen eye for young talent. He has also, however, been fortunate. Some of these decisions were forced upon Reese, they weren't planned for, and in a couple of cases the Giants and Reese have just been plain lucky.
Let's compare stats for three sets of players:
Steve Smith -- 10 catches, 110 yards
Victor Cruz -- 40 catches, 672 yards, four touchdowns
Kevin Boss, Oakland -- 10 catches, 1 touchdown in six games
Jake Ballard -- 26 catches, 430 yards, three touchdowns
Barry Cofield, Washington -- 16 tackles, two sacks, six passes defensed
Linval Joseph -- 21 tackles, two sacks, three passes defensed
Production-wise, the Giants have come out ahead on all three of these here. In reality, the only one Reese planned for was the loss of Cofield, drafting Joseph and the injured Marvin Austin in the second round the past two seasons. He has gotten lucky, though, in that the play of the veteran Rocky Bernard has also helped.
The losses of Smith and Boss were stunners that the Giants were not expecting. Reese had a stable of wide receivers at the ready, and Cruz is the one who has stepped up. Let's give offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride some credit for that. It is Gilbride who has championed Cruz since the preseason and who continued to give him opportunities even when Reese and the Giants tried to replace him.
The Giants have been proven right in their belief that Smith simply would not be ready to be a productive player during the first part of the season. He still might be, but the Giants were still right.
In replacing Boss, you have to admit the Giants have simply been lucky. Reese and the Giants thought it would be Travis Beckum being the kind of weapon in the passing game Ballard has become. Beckum has been a bust with one catch, but Ballard has come out of nowhere to be a better player than anyone dared think.
Reese chose not to supplement the Giants young linebackers with a veteran like Kawika Mitchell or Chase Blackburn. That decision is still debatable, might have bitten the Giants against the 49ers and could be a problem again this week if Michael Boley, as expected, does not play.
Overall, Reese has to be lauded for again showing that -- while he isn't perfect -- his talent evaluation skills have left the Giants able to withstand injury and free-agent defections that could have crippled their season, and would have done just that to many teams around the NFL.