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Giants-Eagles: When New York has the football

Can the Giants find soft spots in the Philly defense?

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The New York Giants lost in an uninspiring fashion to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15, 24-6. The loss ended the Giants’ three-game winning streak under undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito. New York is now 5-9, with an unlikely shot at the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Eagles have lost three in a row and now sit second in the division behind the Dallas Cowboys at 10-4; both teams share the record. The Eagles lost to Drew Lock and the Seahawks at Lumen Field on Monday Night, 20-17.

Philadelphia, which still has a shot at a first-round bye, will likely be playing to win in their upcoming matchups against the Giants. The Eagles won’t be taking it easy; they’ll likely take it to the limit and provide Giants’ fans a not-so-peaceful easy feeling.

Week 16 is the first time the Giants have played the Eagles since their brutal 38-7 divisional-round loss. New York lost all three matchups against the Eagles in 2022 by a combined score of 108-45.

Since 2010, the Eagles are 21-6 against the Giants, who haven’t won in Philadelphia since a 15-7 2013 victory against Matt Barkley. To say the Eagles have dominated this matchup is an understatement. I do, however, take some solace in the Eagles losing on Monday night, with ex-Giants Julian Love and Leonard Williams being two of the primary contributors for the Seahawks defense.

The Eagles will be without Darius Slay at cornerback, but they have yet to release any information on their injuries.

What’s going on at DC?

The Eagles made an important coaching decision in the week leading up to the Monday Night Football game against the Seahawks. Sean Desai, a young defensive coach and current Eagles’ defensive coordinator, had his play-calling duty removed in favor of veteran coach Matt Patricia.

Patricia, a defensive assistant on Nick Sirianni’s staff, assumed the primary responsibility of defensive coordinator without the title. Desai was moved up to the coaching box to work in another capacity.

Sirianni decided after the Eagles' defense surrendered three consecutive weeks of over 30 points against the Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys. Still, the product on the field wasn’t the primary driving force behind the decision.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the removal of Desai was due to a feeling that the young coach did not “carry himself with confidence,” and the players started to notice.

It is important to note that several veteran Eagles’ threw their support behind the young coach. Both defensive lineman Brandon Graham and center Jason Kelce publicly endorsed Desai as a coach.

Statistics

The change from Desai to Patricia could alter how the defense is effectively run, but the personnel remains the same, and it’s not as cohesive as it was with Jonathan Gannon last season. The Eagles allow 24.4 points per game, which ranks 26th; the Giants allow 24.1 PPG, ranking 25th.

The Eagles rank 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed (349.9), 28th in passing yards allowed (255.4), and seventh in rushing yards allowed per game (94.4). The Eagles have the worst third-down conversion rate in the NFL; they allow a conversion on 47.69% of third downs. For reference, the Giants rank eighth in the NFL with a conversion rate of 36.11%.

Philadelphia blitzes on 21.9% of snaps, ranking in the bottom third of the league. They get pressure at a 22.4% rate. After they almost set the single-season sack record last year with 70 sacks, they only have 39 now, which ranks 14th in the NFL. The Giants only have 24, four ahead of the Panthers in last place.

Defensive personnel

The Eagles have one of the NFL's deepest and most dominant defensive lines. After missing the team single-season sack record by two last year, Philadelphia added one of the best players in college football - Jalen Carter - to their defensive line, along with his college teammate at Georgia, Nolan Smith at edge.

Carter has five sacks and 42 pressures in his rookie season. He is a force and will be annoying for the Giants to deal with for years. Smith, a rotational edge defender who got dinged up against the Seahawks, has six pressures and a sack.

Starting edge defenders Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick are arguably the most dynamic duo in the NFL. Both have 60 pressures on the season; Reddick has 11.5 sacks, and Sweat has 6.5. Both players tormented the Giants last season.

Then there are the veteran defensive linemen like Fletcher Cox on the interior and Brandon Graham at end. The former has 39 pressures and five sacks, while the latter has 21 pressures and four sacks. Big Jordan Davis has 17 pressures and four sacks from the interior, and the rotational - uber-athletic - Milton Williams has 18 pressures and a sack.

Philadelphia lost linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White last off-season. Zach Cunningham and Nicholas Morrow have filled in for the two departed linebackers and have been admirable as Nakobe Dean is on injured reserve. Cunningham did miss Monday night with a knee injury.

Three-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker Shaq Leonard, who is still 28 years old, signed with the Eagles after the Colts waived him; he played 28 snaps for them on Monday night.

The Eagles' secondary is susceptible to big plays and has holes, especially without Slay, who also missed Monday’s game and should be out against the Giants after having a knee-scope procedure last week. Former Giant James Bradberry allowed the game-winning touchdown to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, his ninth touchdown surrendered on the season.

Rookie Kelee Ringo started opposite Bradberry; according to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks completed zero passes on two targets against Ringo. Veteran Bradley Roby and undrafted rookie Eli Ricks manned the slot, with Kevin Byard and Reed Blankenship on the backend.

The two safeties are both quality starters who are smart, tough, and physical against the run. However, the cornerback room without Slay is vulnerable, even against a team like the Giants, say, if New York can block the upfront - which is a massive if.

Rookie Sydney Brown is the third safety in a defense that frequently uses three safety looks. Brown is a good player who is chippy and plays to the edge of the whistle. He has allowed 19 catches on 21 targets for 202 yards.

What should the Giants do?

Protect Tommy DeVito. Easier said than done, but the Giants failed to do this with Daniel Jones last year. Jones was sacked five times with 25 pressures in the divisional round and four times with 33 pressures in Week 14. Plus, the Giants' entire game plan became predictable due to the quick nature of the Giants’ passing attack against the Eagles pass rush and secondary.

DeVito, who has done a good job attacking teams vertically, may not have the luxury to stand in the pocket for long if the Giants do not run six-plus man protections. One way to provide DeVito more time is to establish the run with star running back Saquon Barkley.

The Giants only had 60 yards on the ground against the Saints; Barkley had just 14 of those yards - that has to change. New York must find a way to spring explosive plays on the ground to set up the passing attack as the Seahawks did on Monday with Kenneth Walker III.

This does not mean the Giants have to be uber-conservative. I love how the Giants took a deep shot against Cover-1 to Slayton on their first offensive play vs. the Saints. If they receive that look again, take the shot; hopefully, the ball is optimally placed.

Another way to assist the rushing attack would be to lean on the RPO and punish linebackers for being over-aggressive in their fits like the Giants did against the Packers on Isaiah Hodgins’ non-touchdown catch.

The biggest issue with the Giants' offense against the Saints was overall execution. The offensive line was dreadful on four-man twists, the Giants had three drops, and there were open receivers who weren’t targeted for one reason or another.

It likely won’t get much easier in a hostile environment against the Eagles - a team that needs a win.

Final thoughts

The Giants fell flat last week. I hope they can show life and play spoiler against a bitter rival, but history doesn’t suggest New York will find a way to escape Philadelphia with a double-you. Still, any given Sunday, right?

I have the Eagles winning this game. I’m afraid the Giants' defense could be exposed against an Eagles’ offense that has proficiently executed whatever gameplan they decided upon against the Giants in the past. Last year, the game plan was to attack the second-level with zone-read and RPOs from spread looks - New York did not have a chance.

However, with Bobby Okereke and a more developed Micah McFadden in tow, the Eagles might struggle to succeed with that plan. In recent memory, New York has struggled on the deep shots the Eagles have taken against the Giants, and DeVonta Smith has been the primary beneficiary.

The Giants’ defense will have to be dialed in to slow down an Eagles offense that hasn’t necessarily fully clicked this season. Crazier things have happened, but the Eagles should win this matchup at home.