The New York Giants versus the Philadelphia Eagles is one of the marquee match-ups of the season. These games are almost always physical, hard-fought, bitter contests that last the full 60 minutes.
This game has special meaning for the Giants, coming one year after Victor Cruz's nightmarish knee injury in Philadelphia. That game saw trash talk spew from both camps, the Eagles themselves releasing a cartoon mocking the Giants' quarterback.
Cruz has yet to be cleared to return to practice after having his comeback derailed by a calf injury. The Giants offense also finds itself potentially hamstrung by injuries to Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle, suffered in the Giants' Week 5 win.
How will the Giants manage to mount an offense if their top three wide receivers are unavailable?
Stats At A Glance
|Points||Total Yards||Passing Yards||Rushing Yards|
|Giants Offense||26.4 (7th)||373.6 (9th)||282.4 (7th)||91.2 (26th)|
|Eagles Defense||20.6 (11th)||376.4 (23rd)||279.6 (26th)||96.8 (10th)|
We say it every week, but it's true every week: It all starts with Eli Manning.
If the Giants are without their top three offensive weapons this week, it will be up to the reigning NFC Offensive Player of The Week to correctly diagnose the Eagles' defense and elevate the play of his remaining skill position players, and the offense as a whole. The Giants have settled into an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that has made the lives of their offensive linemen much easier, but it puts the burden of calling the game more squarely on Eli's shoulders. Fortunately, he has largely thrived in this offense, and is playing the most efficient football of his career. Eli will need to keep that up to compensate should Beckham and Randle have to sit out the game.
The Giants have a good scoring offense, but too many of their points are coming off of Josh Brown's leg rather than from the offense proper. Because of that, Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, and (of course) Manning himself have all tried to be aggressive when the situation allows. However, the Eagles aren't being beaten deep, only giving up five pass completions of 20 yards or more on the season.
Even though Eli wants to be aggressive, he might have to keep taking what the defense gives him and matriculate the ball down the field. Most importantly, however, he will have to continue to be efficient, take care of the football, and put whatever weapons are available in position to make plays.
The Giants have one of the most efficient scoring offenses in the NFL, at least when measured by offensive drives that end in a scoring play. However they find themselves settling for field goals far, far to often. Coughlin has attributed that to their inability to consistently run the football, even against favorable -- seven man or less -- fronts. And there is certainly some truth to that. When the field constricts close to the goal line if defenses don't respect the run they can drop more players into coverage, making it that much harder to get the ball to receivers.
But on a more matchup based note, the Eagles are known for the speed of their offense. However when they can't extend drives, that means that they are also known for the incredible number of snaps their defense plays. In each of Chip Kelly's first two years, the Eagles' defense has lead the league in the number of snaps they have played. That volume of snaps has worn them down by the end of the season. If the Giants can mount something like an effective rushing attack, it will go a long way to towards wearing down the Eagles' defense, making life easier for the rest of the offense in the fourth quarter. A strong rushing attack also forces defenses to respect the run enough to be exploited by play-action passes. If the Giants are missing their key offensive weapons, good play-action could help their second and third tier of skill position players get separation and make big gains.
A successful rushing attack starts up front, with the offensive line opening up holes and getting movement at the line of scrimmage. The running backs still need to find those holes, but they have a much better chance of doing that if they aren't being met by defenders in the backfield.
Eli is also one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. A big part of that comes down to the Giants' extensive use of the no-huddle offense and a very quick passing attack. Eli is fourth in the league in release time, behind only Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. That has gone a long way to help out a young, and somewhat makeshift, offensive line. However, the linemen themselves are doing a better job of protecting Eli than many thought they could. The interior especially has been the next best thing to dominant.
However the Giants will need to find a way to neutralize defensive Fletcher Cox. The Eagle's defensive tackle is one of their very best players, adept at creating havoc along -- and behind -- the line of scrimmage. They will also need to contain Brandon Graham, who has been having a strong year despite only having one sack thus far this season.
Skill Position Players
The big question with this position is ... Who will be there? As this is a Monday game, the Giants get an extra day for some of their injured players to get ready. However, with Beckham and Randle both potentially on the bench, who is Eli going to throw to?
One answer is obviously Shane Vereen. He has twice come up impressively for the Giants. Vereen is their third-leading receiver with 20 receptions, behind only Beckham (31 catches) and Larry Donnell (21). Vereen, however, far outstrips Donnell in yards -- 208 to 154 -- and yards per catch with 10.4 to 7.3.
Donnell himself would likely be Eli's second option. Although the big tight end tends to play small as a blocker, he can be a very capable receiver -- as evidenced by his game-winning catch over Navarro Bowman on Sunday. Eli's other experienced receiving option would be Dwayne Harris, who is growing into a capable slot receiver while Cruz continues his convalescence. Harris has set career highs in receptions in each of the past two weeks and his 11 catches are more than he had in each of the past two seasons. He appears well on his way to eclipsing his career of 17 catches, established in 2012 with the Dallas Cowboys.
Elsewhere, receivers Geremy Davis, Myles White and tight end Will Tye all bring youth, enthusiasm, and intriguing physical skills, but have a career total of 15 catches between them. White had nine of those in seven games with the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
If the Giants have to take the field with Beckham, Randle and Cruz -- an All-Pro compliment of receivers -- on the bench, the Giants will find themselves with a number of good complimentary players, but nobody who will scare a defense.
That lack of fear will likely give the Eagles the confidence to rely on one-on-one matchups across the board and send extra pressure against Manning. The answer there is going to have to come from the minds of McAdoo and Manning. They will absolutely have to scheme players open and make sure every play puts somebody in position to play to their strengths and take advantage of a favorable match-up. Then Eli will need to be on point to recognize that matchup and accurately deliver the ball.