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Giants vs. Eagles: When the Giants have the ball

What will be the keys to scoring points vs. Philadelphia?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Can the New York Giants find the keys to unlocking their struggling offense on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles? Let’s break down that matchup.

By the numbers

Eagles’ defense

Points per game: 16.7 (4th)
Yards per game: 328.9 (8th)
Passing yards per game: 214.1 (5th)
Rushing yards per game: 114.7 (20th)
Sacks: 22 (3rd)

Giants’ offense

Points per game: 19.0 (26th)
Yards per game: 345.3 (19th)
Passing yards per game: 275.0 (6th)
Rushing yards per game: 70.3 (32nd)
Rushing yards per attempt: 3.3 (29th)
Giveaways: 14 (29th)

What changes will we see?

Over the past couple of weeks we have addressed many of the issues facing the Giants’ offense. The over-reliance on “11” personnel. Whether or not the play-calling is too predictable. Whether some personnel changes are in order. Whether coach Ben McAdoo should continue being the offensive play-caller.

With a week to self-scout, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the under-performing Giants modify on offense.

“We're going to stick to the plan,” McAdoo said. “We took a look at ourselves personnel wise. We took a look at ourselves schematically. We're going to make some adjustments to roles with players. Acclimate some more guys in, maybe de-acclimate some guys. Make some adjustments schematically and move on down the road.”

What will those role changes or schematic adjustments be? McAdoo certainly isn’t going to provide any hints. We will just have to wait until Sunday to find out.

“Your team and players are what they are. Your staff is what it is,” McAdoo said. “You take a look at what you do well, what you don't do well. You make some adjustments, you try to work on things you need to work on, but you can't fix everything over a bye week.”

Handling the pass rush

The Giants have allowed just 11 sacks, tied for second-fewest in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranks the Giants third in the league in pass protection, with an Adjusted Sack Rate of 4.1 percent. If you have watched the games, though, you know this is a case where the numbers don’t necessarily reflect the reality.

The Giants have been reliant on a quick, short passing game. Eli Manning is getting the ball out in an eye-blink as often as possible, not allowing for much in the way of deep, downfield routes or for pass rushers to get to him. Manning ranks 21st in the league in “Air Yards,” the distance beyond the line of scrimmage a pass is thrown. Fifty-four percent of Manning’s passing yards have been generated by receivers after the catch, most of any starting quarterback in the NFL.

So, the Giants have handled the pass rush this season by, for the most part, simply throwing the ball so quickly the rushers didn’t really have a chance to get to Manning.

Will we see a similar approach against Philadelphia?

The Eagles are third in the league in sacks with 22. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox each have four and Connor Barwin has three. The Eagles, though, have sacks from 12 different players.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is getting credit for designing exotic blitz schemes. SB Nation’s Stephen White told me, however, that the Eagles’ ability to pressure is about something much simpler — talent.

“It’s not really much more than they have some really good pass rushers and they allow them to get after the quarterback no matter what down it is. Nothing schematic really other than that,” White said. “When you have the Jimmy’s and Joe’s they have the Xs and Os are pretty easy.”

Of Philadelphia’s 22 sacks, 18 have come from their front four.

“About one in three snaps they pressure,” McAdoo said. “They're not a high pressure team per se, depends on the situation, but they do a nice job with their defensive line creating pressure, squeezing the edges, getting their front up the field, and they rotate a lot of different guys that way.”

Giants’ center Weston Richburg knows the challenge the Eagles present.

“It’s just a different look. They like to play those guys wide and keep contained. They’re a real penetrating group. It’ll be a real challenge for us to negate the things that they like to do,” he said. “They’re good players. It’s going to be a good defense and like I said, a good challenge for us. It’s our job to come out, be physical, and negate the things that they like to do.”

To have any success on Sunday, the Giants need to handle the Philly pressure. Wherever it comes from.

Running the ball? What’s that?

The Giants are the league’s worst rushing team, averaging 70.3 rushing yards per game (32nd) and just 3.3 yards per attempt (29th). If they are ever going to find some semblance of a running game, the Eagles look like a team they might be able to do that against.

While Philly has been selling out to make life miserable for quarterbacks, the Eagles have not been good against the run. They are 20th in the league against the run (114.7 yards per game), 27th in yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.7) and 30th in big plays allowed against the run, having surrendered 31.

In regards to why the Giants have run the ball so ineffectively, McAdoo said this week that “it's not one reason. It's not one player, it's not one position group, it's not just the offensive line, it's not just the backs, it's not just the tight ends, it's a combination of everything.”

Whatever it is, the Giants need to figure out some way to possess the ball more. They are last in the league in time of possession at 25:57 and tied with the Los Angeles Rams for fewest offensive plays run (428). The failure of the running game is a huge part of that.

Big plays in the passing game

In their last four games, the Giants have only five pass plays of 20 or more yards to their wide receivers. Four of those came against the Baltimore Ravens, when Odell Beckham Jr. had his career-best 222-yard receiving day. The Giants had 12 such plays during their first three games.

Obviously, they need more of those from the guys considered to be their offense’s primary play-makers. To do so, they have to adjust to the way defenses are combating their passing attack.

“We’re doing the best that we can right now at finding ways to move around. Not let them double so much. Even at times running the linebacker underneath. It’s definitely tough. It’s tough to go against and it’s tough to want to be successful. You’re faced against some great obstacles,” Beckham said. “They (the Eagles) play a lot of one-high man. Hopefully we can get them in a lot of one-high man and see what happens.”

The Eagles, despite being fifth in the league in passing yards allowed, could be vulnerable to the big play. Adam Hermann of Bleeding Green Nation told us that earlier this week:

The Eagles' cornerbacks are susceptible to big plays against talented players -- see Terrelle Pryor, Marvin Jones, Dez Bryant as just a few examples -- and with very thin depth at corner, I'd roll out three-wide receiver sets constantly. Those looks force safety Malcolm Jenkins into slot corner and put Jaylen Watkins at safety, a favorable matchup for most offenses. Then, as obvious as it seems, go to work with Odell Beckham Jr. Keep a running back in for pass protection on most plays, and you should be set.

Let’s see if the Giants can get back to the type of production they had from the wide receivers in the first three games, when they got 12 plays of 20 or more yards from Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.