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Giants vs. Eagles, Week 16: What to expect when the Giants have the ball

Will things be different in the Giants’ rematch against the Eagles?

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New York Giants will take a quick jaunt down I-95 this weekend to face the Philadelphia Eagles.

The last time these two teams met, the Giants hosted the Eagles and managed to escape with a surprising 13-7 upset victory. While we didn’t realize it at the time, that meeting was the end of Daniel Jones’ season.

Jake Fromm was stunningly signed off of the Buffalo Bills practice squad a couple of days later and it was soon revealed that Jones suffered a neck injury and was “week to week”. He has since been placed on the injured reserve list and Fromm could be in line to start.

That game also saw Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts injure his ankle, which could explain their reluctance to use him as a rusher and the aggression the Giants saw from the Eagles’ defense.

The Giants have generally had a bad time when they’ve gone to Lincoln Financial Field, with weird and bad things happening. Will this game be different? Can the Giants’ offense do enough to win with a back-up quarterback under center?

Let’s see what the Giants can expect from the Eagles’ defense.

Who’s gonna be the one?

As of this writing we don’t know who the Giants starting quarterback will be in the wake of Jones being placed on the injured reserve. While Mike Glennon is the veteran option who has seen much of what the NFL has to offer and has spent much more time in the Giants’ offense, he is a known quantity. And what we know about Glennon doesn’t inspire confidence.

Jake Fromm did enough last week to force a “conversation” at the quarterback position. While it was only a brief showing in garbage time and a very pared-down two-minute offense, Fromm did what was asked of him and did it well. He executed the offense with decisiveness, showing good anticipation and precision in his passes — better than the Giants have seen from their passing offense in some time. Likewise, the Giants’ offense actually played with urgency in a two-minute situation, which was refreshing to see.

But still, it was only about two and a half minutes of action and far from executing a full game plan against a team trying to claw its way into the playoffs.

Much of the Giants’ game plan and how they can attack the Eagles will depend on who is under center. Glennon has a much fuller command of the playbook and will have seen much more of the defensive schemes used around the NFL. However, paring back the offensive playbook could be to the benefit of the whole offense. Relying solely on the plays the coaches know the team can execute well and quickly (as they do in a two-minute drill) will allow the offense to play faster.

Taking wrinkles out of the game plan might make the Giants easier to defend for 60 minutes, but it’s also fair to ask whether all the rotations and trick plays were doing any good.

Really, the Giants have nothing to lose by rolling with Fromm, but right now we don’t know if he’ll get the nod.

Still a scary pass rush

Giants’ fans should know by now that the Eagles have a deep and talented defensive front.

We remarked the first time around that each of the Eagles’ four starting linemen were ranked in the Top-10 at their position in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate.

  • Josh Sweat (third - DE/OLB)
  • Derek Barnett (sixth - DE/OLB)
  • Javon Hargrave (third - iDL)
  • Fletcher Cox (ninth - iDL)

And that overall statement is still true. However the rankings have shuffled somewhat thanks to a couple weeks of games played, and Sweat, Hargrave, and Cox have moved up in the rankings.

Now Sweat has the second-highest win rate among EDGE defenders, while Barnett is tied with Nick Bosa at 25 percent win rate, just behind Myles Garrett and Haason Reddick.

Hargrave moved up to second in win rate among interior defensive linemen (19 percent), and Cox has improved to fifth in win rate at 14 percent.

Both of the Eagles’ defensive tackles moving up the board in pass rush win rate could spell trouble for an interior offensive line that can be inconsistent.

All of that combined means that the Eagles have ESPN’s third-ranked pass rushing defense. Their combined 51 percent pass rush win rate is only just behind the Los Angeles Rams (53 percent) and Carolina Panthers (52 percent).

The good news is that the Giants are coming off a relatively strong performance from their offensive line. The Dallas Cowboys’ defense is as close to full strength as its been in a while, and the Giants’ line only gave up one sack. That said, they weren’t perfect and there were still instances of pressure leaking through which resulted in a pair of interceptions from Mike Glennon.

Complicating matters is the fact that DT Javon Hargrave has been Philly’s most dangerous pass rusher. He leads the team in sacks (7.5), quarterback hits (16), and tackles for a loss (8), all of which could spell trouble for an interior defensive line which has been inconsistent at best. Interior pressure can be particularly disruptive, especially for young or immobile quarterbacks (which sums up the Giants’ options here).

The fact that every lineman the Eagles will send out is a competent pass rusher makes double-teaming any one of them a risky proposition.

The Giants will likely want to lean on their run game to protect their offensive line and quarterback. We should expect plenty of carries for Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker as the Giants look to replicate the 100+ yard rushing days they had against the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys over the last two weeks.

However the Eagles’ run defense isn’t nearly so porous as the Chargers or Cowboys. Since making their schematic about-face in Week 8, Philly has only allowed one 100-yard rushing total — to the New Orleans Saints, who had 109 total rushing yards.

If the Giants can hold the Eagles’ offense in check again, it might come down to their quarterback’s arm to win this game.

Will they blitz?

I noted in the preview for the Giants’ Week 12 meeting with the Eagles that, on average, their defense doesn’t blitz often. At the time, Philly had the third-lowest blitz rate, sending extra rushers on just 16.7 percent of passing plays. Fast forward to now, and that blitz rate is actually even lower, and the Eagles have the second lowest blitz rate in the NFL at 16.1 percent.

Generally speaking, Philly’s natural pass rush is good enough that they just don’t need to blitz. Why take players out of coverage to scheme pressure when your front four is capable of pressuring passers all on their own?

But Giants fans will also remember that the Eagles were unusually aggressive in their defensive calls the first time around.

They seemingly blitzed every time the Giants tried to convert a third down. In fact, Philly sent extra rushers a total of nine times* over the course of that game, which is once more than Patrick Graham sent blitzers at Hurts.

*Note: This isn’t the total number of blitzes, but rather the total number of times a player was sent on a blitz, per Pro Football Reference. Some of those plays could have involved 6-man pressures.

The Giants countered the Eagles’ blitz packages with well-timed screens thrown into (or rather, behind) the oncoming blitz. That got the ball out quickly and into space vacated by the blitzing player. The Giants only converted 3 of 12 third downs, but they were still able to make the Eagles pay enough for their aggression.

This, of course, raises the question of whether or not the Eagles will be similarly aggressive this time around.

It would make sense to abandon the idea after it didn’t work — and arguably blew up in their faces — back in Week 12. However, with the Giants either fielding the mistake-prone Glennon or the inexperienced Fromm, blitzing might seem more attractive. In addition to everything that can happen when you pressure a quarterback, simply showing them pressure packages could put enough on their mental plates to cause mistakes.