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Giants-Eagles, Week 14: What to expect when Philadelphia has the ball

Can the Giants slow the Philadelphia offense?

Washington Commanders v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The bitter taste of a Week 13 tie against Washington lingers, but the New York Giants must regroup and face a tough assignment at home in Week 14 against the 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles are the second-highest scoring team in the league behind the Kansas City Chiefs; Philadelphia averages 28.3 points per game and is coming off a 35-10 home victory against the Tennessee Titans.

How can the Giants slow the Eagles’ offense?

Jalen Hurts and Brian Daboll

The juggernaut Eagles’ offense is led by third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, whom Brian Daboll is quite fond of. Daboll was Hurts’ offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2017. The quarterback led the Crimson Tide to a 13-1 record under Daboll before infamously getting benched for true freshman Tua Tagovalioa in a come-from-behind National Championship victory over Georgia.

Jalen Hurts has grown exponentially as a passer since his time at Alabama. Additions like A.J. Brown and second-year wide receiver DeVonta Smith have assisted in his development, and there are few quarterbacks playing at a higher collective level than Hurts.

Hurts has 2,935 passing yards with a 68.1 percent completion rate, 20 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. His yards per attempt are 8.2, ranking him second behind - ironically enough - Tagovailoa. For reference, Daniel Jones ranks 22nd in the league with 6.8 YPA.

According to Pro Football Focus, Hurts has the second-best adjusted completion percentage in the league (the percentage of aimed passes thrown on target - completions + drops / aimed). Jones is the only quarterback ahead of him.

Hurts is more precise this season. According to Pro Football Reference, his bad throw percentage is at 11.5 percent, placing him as the third-best quarterback who qualifies; the best is Seattle’s Geno Smith, and the second is Tennessee’s, Ryan Tannehill. Jones isn’t far behind with a 13.2 percent bad throw rate, ranking him ninth among qualifying quarterbacks.

Hurts is the fourth-most blitzed quarterback in the league, yet he’s the 21st most pressured quarterback. A primary reason for the disparity is Hurts’ most dangerous asset - his legs.

As much as Hurts improved as a passer from last season, he’s still more dangerous as a runner. Hurts has 607 rushing yards with nine rushing touchdowns and 10 fumbles. Hurts has more rushing yards than Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon, Los Angeles’ Austin Ekeler, and the Saints' Alvin Kamara.

Of quarterbacks, only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has more rushing yards than Hurts. Just two weeks ago, in the Eagles’ 40-33 win over Green Bay, Hurts rushed for 157 yards; in that same game, running back Miles Sanders rushed for 143 yards with two touchdowns. Philadelphia finished with 363 yards rushing, so the Giants' offense has to be disciplined in their run fits against Nick Sirianni’s diverse rushing attack. It will not be easy.

Offensive personnel

The Eagles’ offensive philosophy is predicated on a creative rushing approach that gives Hurts several options through zone reads and RPOs. The Eagles are third in the league with RPOs run; most defenses are put so much into conflict because of Hurts and the Eagles’ running backs that the throw tends to be open.

The Eagles’ offense is second in the NFL behind Kansas City in EPA (estimated points added), and second in rush EPA behind the Ravens. Philadelphia ranks fifth in the league with an average of 149.7 rushing yards per game.

Rushing ability

Hurts’ dynamic rushing ability is one reason why the team is so effective on the ground, but a trio of Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott also do a good job on the ground for Philadelphia.

Sanders is the primary running back with 924 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns - he had zero touchdowns last season. Gainwell operates a bit more in the two-minute drill and is more of a threat as a receiver, while Scott (AKA the Giants’ killer) is the change of pace back.

Scott has 16 career touchdowns, half of those against the Giants. He’s the third option behind Sanders and Gainwell, but he sure does have a knack for crushing the hearts of Giants’ fans.

Philadelphia doesn’t run a ton of pre-snap motion to confuse defenders; they will use tempo and attack, but they rank 30th in the league in pre-snap motion rate. They run 11 personnel 70.7 percent of the time, 12 personnel 20.1 personnel of the time, and 13 Personnel 7.4 personnel of the time.

The Eagles’ red zone offense is one of the best in the NFL. They are currently second in red zone touchdown rate, just behind the Detroit Lions. A primary reason being the team’s rushing ability. The Eagles have the second-highest red zone rush rate in the league, just behind the Chicago Bears; conversely, that would mean they’re 31st in pass rate in the red zone.

Offensive line

The Eagles have one of the scariest offensive lines in the league. Thirty-five-year-old Jason Kelce maintains his movement skills and continues to be an asset at center. Right tackle Lane Johnson is arguably the most athletic right tackle in the NFL, and left tackle Jordan Mailata isn’t too far behind, especially when one considers his massive 6-foot-8, 365-pound frame.

Isaac Seumalo and Landon Dickerson are the two guards to complete a wildly formidable unit up front led by offensive line mastermind Jeff Stoutland. The personnel and rushing scheme of Sirianni’s unit maximizes the movement skills of the athletic big men up front.

One of the major issues for the Giants' defense is lateral power-gap runs - they’re going to see plenty against Philadelphia. The Eagles will run QB GT power; they’ll use pin-pull concepts to wash down the Giants’ TITE alignment and isolate the EDGE and LBs against pulling linemen in space.

Sirianni is going to use the zone read and RPO when he’s not pulling linemen in power-gap. Plenty of end men on the line of scrimmage for the Giants, and second-level defenders, will be placed in conflict. Eye discipline will be paramount for the Giants at the second level.

Passing attack

Trading for A.J. Brown was an incredible move by general manager Howie Roseman. There are few big-bodied receivers in the NFL who are as talented, fluid, physical, and well-rounded as Brown, who has 61 catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns on 90 targets.

Adding Brown allowed the Slim Reaper - DeVonta Smith - to operate as the number two receiver; Smith’s season isn’t as statistically impressive as Brown, albeit he has 720 yards and four touchdowns on 61 catches on 84 targets. The offensive philosophy of Philadelphia is more predicated on rushing the football. The Eagles rank 26th in passing attempts per game.

The Eagles' defense and rushing attack is so good that Philadelphia doesn’t need to throw the ball often because they’re playing with a lead. Plus, the Eagles want to run the ball.

Still, Smith should not be forgotten. Quez Watkins is the third receiver in the Eagles’ 11 personnel package. He is more of the deep threat - homerun - type of player. Shots off the play action to Watkins are likely.

The young New York secondary may get too aggressive coming downhill on the potent rushing attack; Big Blue can not overlook the speed of Watkins and the talent of the top two wide receivers of the Eagles off the play action.

WR Zach Pascal is a blocking wide receiver who presents a large catch radius. His ability to impact the run game as a difference-making blocker is an underrated part of the offense. Star tight end Dallas Goedert is injured, and Philadelphia has primarily used Jack Stoll with rookie Grant Calcaterra in 12 personnel. Former Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson operates as an extra tight end in 13 personnel.

The upgrade in offensive weaponry and Hurts own personal development as a passer led to exponential growth for Hurts’ EPA per pass from last season. Hurts is seeing the field more clearly, and isn’t as reluctant to throw over the middle. He’s much more accurate underneath and throwing to his left. New York, and the injury-riddled secondary, will have their hands full on Sunday.

Final thoughts

In order to defeat Philadelipha, the Giants have to play efficient football, as they did at the beginning of the season. The defense has to take advantage of Hurts mistakes and make him pay when he decides to tuck and run.

New York employs man coverage at one of the highest rates in the NFL - that could get ugly against a mobile quarterback. Wink Martindale will play man coverage because Wink will Wink, and it’s a simpler coverage to run with younger pieces who have limited experience. The Giants have to contain and disallow Hurts from using his legs.

Washington controlled the clock and took advantage of the Eagles’ mistakes through fumbles and a timely interception on a deep shot that was well-read by Darrick Forrest. The Giants' path to victory on defense - in a game where they’re overmatched - is to force Hurts to win with his arm.

New York defeated Hurts and the Eagles last season by forcing Hurts into bad decisions. Hurts threw three interceptions and finished the game 14 of 31 with 129 yards passing and 77 yards rushing. The defense was opportunistic, the Giants controlled possession, and the Giants created four turnovers.

Despite a great defensive performance, the Giants barely escaped with a 13-7 victory. It would be nothing short of a miracle if the Giants could hold this Eagles team to 7 points.

Teams have primarily played the Cover-3, Cover-1, and Quarters against Philadelphia. I expect the Giants to run a combination of these three coverage types with a TITE, 5-man front. The Giants have to find a way to stop the lateral rushing attack that Washington just successfully employed against them in Week 13.

Bracket covering Brown is an option in an attempt to remove his dangerous downfield play-making ability, but that would isolate a one-on-one matchup for Smith.

Timely turnovers, sound run overall run defense, and a bend don’t break defensive philosophy to force Jake Elliott field goals may give the Giants a chance to earn a win. The young secondary has a burden on its shoulders to mitigate explosive plays and be efficient on third down.

Dallas did whatever it wanted against an injured Giants’ secondary on Thanksgiving in the second half. Jerome Henderson’s unit must be dialed on third downs, and the pressure has to get home when Martindale brings 5+. Four-man rushes with twists up front could be tricky against a mobile quarterback.

The path to victory is unclear and seems dismal for the Giants, but it’s not certainly impossible. On any given Sunday, anything can happen, but the Giants will have to get their offense established and in a rhythm. Hopefully, the rushing attack with Saquon Barkley can be rejuvenated, and the quick game passing attack that New York used in overtime against Washington will become more of a focal point.

The Giants' defense must avoid explosive plays and shut down the run; it won’t be easy, but efficiency on third down, disciplined run defense, and pressure on Jalen Hurts is a solid start to at least give the Giants a chance in a game where they’re 7-point home underdogs.