As you no doubt know by now, the New York Giants face the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night in a game that might help determine which of these struggling teams could go on to be a legitimate factor in the NFC East crawl toward a division title.
Let’s preview the game in what is becoming yet another Big Blue View tradition, our look at the ABCs of Thursday’s game.
A is for ... Austin: Undrafted rookie wide receiver Austin Mack made his debut for the Giants last week. he caught 1 pass for 1 yard, drew a pass interference penalty and played 36 snaps.
B is for ... Batteries: Because that’s what Joe Judge, a Philadelphia native, says his in-laws are bringing to the game. In Philly, they might even be allowed inside Lincoln Financial Field with them.
Judge can be funny when he wants to be. In addition to talking about his in-laws potentially bringing batteries to the game, he dropped this when asked ticket requests from friends and family:
“My only rule is anybody who shows up that I either grew up with or have blood ties with, they have to wear blue,” he said. “I respect their love for the Eagles from being in the town, but hey, look man, you ain’t showing up cheering against my kids’ Christmas. You better come out in some blue cheering for us.”
From @gmfb on #Giants coach Joe Judge, a Landsdale, Pa. native, returning home tonight and why his family and friends will be wearing blue after a few years ago they donned #Eagles green to his dismay. pic.twitter.com/x54a48NSVI— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 22, 2020
C is for ... Crowder: You have to feel awful for Giants’ rookie Tae Crowder. A hero on Sunday with a game-winning scoop and score fumble recovery. On IR Tuesday with a hamstring injury, perhaps suffered on the same play. Crowder was emerging as a player to be excited about on the Giants’ defense, and this is a setback for the young man and the defense.
D is for ... DeSean: Giant-killer DeSean Jackson, out since Week 3 with a hamstring injury, is expected to play for the Eagles on Thursday night.
E is for ... Ertz: No one ever wants to see players get hurt — or, if you do, then shame on you — but it certainly can’t hurt the Giants that tight end Zach Ertz won’t play for Philadelphia on Thursday night.
F is for ... Fletcher: The Eagles have suffered an extraordinary number of injuries this season, but they still have defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. And Cox is still a great player who will challenge the interior of the Giants’ offensive line.
G is for ... ‘Gumby:’ Because, henceforth, Blake Martinez has decreed that ‘Gumby’ shall be Kyler Fackrell’s nickname.
H is for ... Hurts: Rookie backup quarterback Jalen Hurts is playing a Taysom Hill-like role for the Eagles. He played a season-high 7 snaps in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. Hurts has 7 rushes for 49 yards, 1 reception for 3 yards and has completed 1 pass for 18 yards so far this season.
“He obviously brings that extra dynamic. Obviously, with his athleticism, running and throwing, he’s a smart guy back there that can make the throws to beat you,” said Giants safety Jabrill Peppers. “We definitely need to be on high alert.”
I is for ... Inconceivable: Giants’ tight end Evan Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2017, putting him in the 98th percentile for tested tight ends. I don’t know if Engram can still run 4.42, but he remains blazing fast for a tight end.
Which is what makes it inconceivable that the Giants, in need of more explosive plays, have completed just one pass thrown more than 10 yards downfield to Engram all season. Engram’s been targeted 33 times. Only four of those on passes more than 10 yards down the field and none on passes more than 20 yards down the field. C’mon, Jason Garrett, this is not the plodding Jason Witten you have at your disposal here. This is a guy who can threaten defenses and open things up underneath for other receivers — if you let him.
The San Francisco 49ers have targeted George Kittle 15 times on passes of 10 yards or more — in four games. The Kansas City Chiefs have targeted Travis Kelce 17 times on passes of 10 yards or more. Shoot, converted quarterback Logan Thomas has gotten 14 such targets this season from the Washington Football Team.
The improper use of Engram to this point is the biggest issue I have with Garrett’s offensive philosophy.
J is for ... Jabaal: Veteran edge defender Jabaal Sheard is the newest Giant, signed off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad to take Crowder’s roster spot. Unfortunately for the Giants, the NFL’s COVID-19 testing protocols mean Sheard won’t be eligible to play until the Giants face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8.
K is for ... Kickers: There are two really good ones in this game. Giants’ fans are all too familiar with Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott, who has missed his only field-goal attempts the last two weeks and is just 7 for 10 on the season. Graham Gano is 15 of 16 for the Giants.
L is for ... Least: As in NFC Least. I saw this stat elsewhere, but can’t find the originator. NFC East teams have won 5 games this season and are a combined 5-18-1. No other division has fewer than 9 victories. The AFC East, which is stuck with the 0-6 New York Jets, is 9-14.
M is is for ... Miles: The Eagles won’t have leading rusher Miles Sanders (74 carries, 434 yards, 6.1 yards per carry) Thursday night. Sanders has a knee injury.
N is for ... Not enough: The Giants ran only 46 offensive plays last week vs. Washington, while the Football Team (yes, weird) ran 69. The Giants still won, which is also weird. The Giants are averaging only 58.2 offensive snaps per game, tied for last in the league with the Houston Texans. That, obviously, is not enough.
O is for ... Overdue: The Giants have not beaten the Eagles in their last seven tries, with the last victory coming Dec. 22, 2016. They are overdue to win one of these games.
P is for ... Peart: The play of Matt Peart Sunday vs. Washington has certainly given the Giants a lot to think about. I’m of the belief that sooner rather than later the Giants have to have both Peart and Andrew Thomas in the lineup full time. If it’s up to me, I put Thomas at left tackle and Peart at right tackle, but I don’t care to argue about it and would be happy either way as long as both were playing.
Q is for ... Quick turnaround: That’s what teams go through when they have to play Thursday following a Sunday game. Joe Judge said during the week that “The toughest thing for the guys to understand is once that game against Washington is over, you’re already middle of the way through the game week against Philly on a normal week’s preparation. It’s a very quick turnaround.”
R is for ... Resilient: Because Giants coach Joe Judge has used that word roughly a gazillion times this season to describe his team.
S is for ... Sterling Shepard: Will the veteran wide receiver be ready to go Thursday night? He has been on IR since suffering a turf toe injury Week 2. With C.J. Board out with a concussion and Darius Slayton not 100 percent the Giants could use him.
“He’s obviously a special player and can do a lot of different things. It would be great to have him back,” said Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. “He’s an extremely explosive guy, he’s good in and out of cuts. I think he’s as good of a route runner as there is in the league with what he can do in getting open and then catching the ball. You can trust him to separate from guys. He’s a tough guy to cover one on one.”
T is for ... Touchdown: The Giants need more of them. The Giants have only 4 touchdowns in 16 red zone trips, a 25 percent efficiency rate, 31st in the league. League average is .627 percent touchdowns.
The Giants have had eight offensive possessions this season in which they’ve held the ball for at least 5:11 – and didn’t score a touchdown on any of them. Their two longest drives in terms of time – 9:14 vs. Washington and 8:50 against Pittsburgh – ended with interceptions. The Giants kicked field goals to conclude the other six series.
The Giants are 31st in the league in points per game at 16.8. The Giants are 30th in the league in points per drive (1.61). League average is 2.33, per Football Outsiders.
U is for ... You better know the name Travis Fulgham: Better yet, the Giants better find a way to cover him. A 2019 sixth-round pick by the Detroit Lions who didn’t have a catch last season and got cut, Fulgham has 16 receptions for Philadelphia the past two weeks. He is averaging 15.8 yards per catch and has 3 touchdowns.
V is for ... Vindicated?: You have to wonder if there is a certain red-headed Giants’ assistant coach who feels just a little bit of a sense of vindication with Dallas Cowboys players reportedly ripping the team’s new coaching staff.
W is for ... Wentz: Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz is under fire in Philly as the Eagles have started poorly. Wentz is completing a career-low 58.7 percent of his passes, has a career-worst 3.8 percent interception rate, a career-low passer rating of 71.2 and career-low QBR of 48.2.
Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that he is being sacked on a career-high 9.6 percent of his drop backs and is on pace to be sacked 66.6 times. The most Wentz has ever been sacked in a season is 37 times (2019). So, yeah, if you don’t protect your quarterback he isn’t going to play well. That’s straight out of ‘Football for Dummies.’
X is for ... X-Factor: In this game I will go with offensive line play. As weird as it seems, with Brandon Brooks, Jason Peters and Andre Dillard on the shelf, and Lane Johnson uncertain it is actually possible that the Giants will have the better offensive line on Thursday.
Y is for ... Why not? In this crazy year, the Giants should not win the NFC East. They probably won’t. If they beat the Eagles Thursday night, though, they actually have a chance despite losing their first five games. Honestly, considering draft position you can argue it wouldn’t be in the Giants’ best interest to win this awful division with, say, five or six victories. But, hey, it is mathematically possible. So, why not?
Z is for ... Zone read: As many times as Daniel Jones has pulled the ball out of the belly of a running back and taken off with it over the past few weeks that particular play is now firmly embedded into the Giants’ offense.
I asked Jones the other day how he felt about being asked to carry the ball more frequently in recent weeks.
“I think it helps the running game, opens things up for backs and helps the passing game, too. One of the strengths of this offense is the ability to do a lot of different things with different personnel,” Jones said. “When my number is called to run it, I’m certainly excited for those opportunities. You’re seeing what this offense can do, and we need to continue to improve, continue to execute.”