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Giants at Eagles 2019, Week 14: Can the Giants finally cover somebody?

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Eagles’ wide receivers have been underwhelming

NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles
Alshon Jeffery
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Eli Manning to the New York Giants’ starting lineup adds intrigue to the Giants’ Monday Night Football matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Manning, though, doesn’t play defense. If you have watched the Giants all season you know there has been very little that has been interesting, and a whole lot that has been disturbing, about watching the Giants try to play defense in 2019.

So, how will the Giants’ defense fare Monday night against an Eagles’ offense that has not played up to expectations in 2019?

Opposing offenses have almost always found a friend when facing the Giants’ defense this season. Only twice, a 24-3 victory over the Washington Redskins and a 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears, have the Giants given up fewer than 27 points. Even against Chicago, the Giants allowed the Bears to surpass 300 total yards of offense (335) for the first time in 11 games.

The Eagles did score 31 points last week in a surprising 37-31 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Still, they rank middle of the pack (16th) in points scored, Carson Wentz has been good not but franchise quarterback good, the wide receivers have been underwhelming and Philadelphia has not run the ball all that well with running back Jordan Howard (stinger) missing the past three games.

Philadelphia has lost three straight games and five of its last seven.

This, though, is really about the Giants. Could they find a matchup vs. Philly that can help their woebegone pass defense find its footing?

Limiting the big plays

This has, of course, been an issue for the Giants all season. They have surrendered 14 pass plays of 40 yards or more, most in the league. Confusion in the secondary, whether from struggling rookie DeAndre Baker, fading veteran Antoine Bethea or anyone else has been rampant. Another problem has been young cornerbacks overmatched when left too often in disadvantageous one-one-one matchups.

With home run threat DeSean Jackson playing just one game before going on injured reserve, Wentz has averaged just 6.5 yards per pass attempt this season. Per Inside Edge, that is third-lowest of 27 qualifying quarterbacks.

Neither Alshon Jeffery (43 catches, 60.6 percent catch rate) or Nelson Agholor (39 catches, 56.5 percent catch rate) have given the Eagles what they had hoped for. Yet, those two are the only wide receivers among the top six Eagles in catches this season. Per Inside Edge, Eagles receivers have the third-lowest catch rate in the league this season (55.7 percent).

One curiosity. After his outburst last Sunday night, during which he complained about not being allowed to shadow an opposing team’s No. 1 receiver, will Janoris Jenkins play one side of the field Monday night or will he travel with Jeffery?

Dealing with Zach Ertz

The veteran tight end leads the Eagles with 70 receptions. He had 14 in two games last season against the Giants. Ertz caught 30 passes over three games before getting only three receptions against the Dolphins. Can the Giants, historically poor covering tight ends, limit the damage done by Ertz? Let’s see if Julian Love and Deone Bucannon help in that department.

Pass rush

Sure would be nice if the Giants had one. Against Aaron Rodgers last week the Giants had no sacks and just one quarterback hit in 33 pass attempts. The best elixir for a struggling pass defense is a pass rush that either does not let the ball be thrown or at least disrupts a quarterback’s time. Per ESPN, the Giants are 25th in the league with a pass rush win rate (getting pressure within 2.5 seconds) of 38 percent.

Run defense

This feels like it should be the least of the Giants’ worries entering the game. Per Football Outsiders the Giants are 10th in the league in run defense, giving up 4.09 Adjusted Line Yards per attempt.

Jordan Howard, Philly’s leading rusher, has missed three games with a stinger and has yet to be cleared for contact. So, he could miss Monday’s game. With Howard in the lineup. Philadelphia rushed for more than 100 yards in seven of nine games. With him out, they have done so in just one of three games, a high of 106 yards vs. the Seattle Daehawks.

So, this one looks like it should come down to the Giants’ struggling pass defense vs. the Eagles’ underachieving receivers.

Which group gets healthy Monday night?