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Giants vs. Eagles: What to expect when Philadelphia has the ball

Eagles want to run the ball, and then run it some more

NFL: NOV 21 Saints at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday on a short Thanksgiving week. The Eagles are playing very good football at the moment and have adjusted from their early-season woes.

Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni was chastised earlier in the season for not running the football. It appears Sirianni heard the criticism and tweaked his offense to focus more on a running identity.

The newfound joy with running the football, along with the mobility of quarterback Jalen Hurts, has allowed the Eagles to rush for more than 200 yards in three of their last four games. In the three games where they eclipsed 200 yards, they won.

Philadelphia just rushed for 242 yards against a Saints’ defense that was No. 1 in the league in terms of containing opposing rushing attacks.

Running back Miles Sanders rushed for 94 yards, and more than likely would have eclipsed 100 yards if he wasn’t somewhat benched in favor of Jordan Howard after losing a fumble.

This football team has a quarterback who rushed for three touchdowns, and multiple running backs who averaged more than 5.5 yards per carry in Sanders and Howard did (on double-digit carries, mind you). To accomplish that against the Saints is wildly impressive. Here’s a good breakdown of Jalen Hurts final rushing touchdown from Fran Duffy.

To accomplish such success on the ground, a team needs an offensive line that can move bodies, kick into space, and win at the point of attack. Jason Kelce may be 34 years old, but his movement skills are still incredible.

Young offensive linemen don’t move and deliver hits like the one we see above. In last year’s tape, Kelce struggled to deal with the former Giants Dalvin Tomlinson. Putting a massive strong man like Dexter Lawrence as the 1-Technique in early situations (when the defense warrants the alignment) could pose issues for Kelce. Nevertheless, Kelce is still playing at a high level.

It’s not just zone rushing, either. The Eagles are having success with a power/gap-based running approach with a zone/read element tag. It’s something the Giants have used at times with Daniel Jones.

It seems the Eagles’ current rushing attack is hitting on all cylinders. The offensive line is blocking very well, and the depth at running back is cavernous. Star right tackle Lane Johnson agrees.

Johnson is one of the best right tackles in the NFL. He’s long, physical, does a great job in space, and handles counter moves excellently in pass protection. He’s only allowed nine pressures this season.

The rest of the offensive line aren’t slouches, either. Jordan Mailata is their massive 6-foot-8, 345-pound left tackle who is long, mean, and loves to take defenders to IHop. Mailata was a seventh-round selection by Howie Roseman in 2018. A year later, they drafted Andre Dillard in the first round, but injuries and inconsistent football have stifled his development, and Mailata is now the starter.

Jack Driscoll wasn’t athletic enough to play tackle coming out of Auburn but has transitioned well to right guard. Rookie Landon Dickerson has taken some lumps at left guard, but he’s serviceable. Dickerson has a ton of potential if he can stay healthy. Speaking of healthy, the Eagles are having all this success while missing guards Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo.

There is a lot of rightful confidence in Philadelphia right now, and the Giants will have their hands full in a game that they essentially must win.

Jalen Hurts

Hurts is a primary reason for the Eagles’ rushing success Not only does he rush for around 60 yards a game, but his presence forces backside defenders to be disciplined in fear of Hurts’ ability to run. He essentially eliminates a defender on running plays, giving the offense a blocking advantage.

A wild stats; in the last four games, the Eagles are 3-1. During that four-game span, Jalen Hurts has just 78 passing attempts. That’s 19.5 per game. He’s completed 49 of those passing attempts. The team is so efficient running the ball and Hurts has done such a good job using his arm, when asked, that the Eagles don’t need to rely on an unnecessary passing offense - the complete opposite of earlier in the season.

That stat is going to stick out to Patrick Graham and any defensive coordinator. The goal has to be contain Hurts in the pocket, stop the run, and force Hurts into situations where he has to throw the football. Hurts has come a long way as a passer, but it’s not his strong suit.

This play from Hurts stuck out to me from two weeks ago. He could have easily run the football, but he, instead, kept his eyes downfield, was forced off his spot, reset his feet, and hit tight end Dallas Goedert in stride. Hurts is capable of making these types of plays. However, the Giants’ best chance to take advantage of Hurts is to have him throw more than not.

Hurts currently ranks 18th in the NFL in passing yards with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13 to 5. His touchdown percentage is 4.1 percent, ranking 22nd in the NFL, and he ranks eighth in intended air yards. His intended air yards per passing attempt ranks fifth in the NFL; he may not be throwing often, but he isn’t shy to take shots down the field.

Receiving threats

Star rookie Devonta Smith is by far and away the best wide receiver on the team. He has four touchdowns on 46 catches for 664 receiving yards. He owns a large chunk of the limited passing pie distributed from his former college teammate Jalen Hurts. Smith is a great route runner who can win at the line of scrimmage with his release while possessing excellent ball skills. He should see a lot of James Bradberry.

The rest of the receivers for the Eagles aren’t much to write home about. 2020 First-round pick Jalen Reagor and 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside haven’t made a significant impact for the Eagles. It’s still somewhat early for Reagor, but the talks of him being a bust are warranted, mainly because he was selected over Justin Jefferson - Yikes. Reagor struggled to stay healthy last season and has done little in 2021.

Quez Watkins also earns a large snap share. He’s made some big plays throughout the season due to his explosiveness, but he’s not consistently involved in a run-heavy game plan. He has 408-yards on 26 catches with no touchdowns. He failed to record a catch last week against the Saints.

Tight end Dallas Goedert is the lone wolf after Zach Ertz departed to Arizona. Goedert was handsomely rewarded for his efforts earlier this week when he signed a four-year contract extension worth $57 million. He’s a good blocker with excellent hands, route running, and overall ability as a receiver. He has 491-yards, and 34 catches to go along with two touchdowns. Expect Sirianni to work the play action and attempt to create mismatches with Goedert’s size against some of the smaller defenders on the backend of the Giants’ defense.