Eagles’ DL is a Tough Matchup for Giants
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Alert the FAA because there is going to be a lot of traffic in the air over South Philadelphia on Sunday.
That's because the desperate New York Giants can't run the football and the Eagles seemingly don't want to.
Through the admittedly small sample size of two games, Philadelphia is averaging 82.5 rushing yards a game and that's good for 20th in the NFL believe it or not, perhaps a testament to just how bad the offensive line play has been around the league early. To prove that thesis look no further than the Giants, who are dead last when it comes to the running game, mustering only 48.5 YPG, the only team in the NFL under 50.0.
The ineffectiveness of the Giants offense has been a perfect storm of ineptitude but it certainly starts up front with their offensive line. From there Ben McAdoo's reality includes no difference makers at running back and an aging, descending player at the quarterback position in Eli Manning.
Arguably the only strength of the unit -- the receivers -- play into the Eagles' biggest weakness on the defensive side, a secondary that will be minus Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle), Rodney McLeod (hamstring), Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) on Sunday and potentially Corey Graham (you guessed it, a hamstring).
OBJ, however, is still not 100 percent after a preseason ankle injury and veteran free agent pickup Brandon Marshall has been dropping the football early.
On top of all of that, McAdoo, a second-year coach coming off an 11-win season, is already feeling the heat of New York, throwing Manning under the bus for a delay penalty at a key moment in Monday night's ugly loss to Detroit, and acknowledging he might have to give up playcalling duties if the offense doesn't get kickstarted soon.
On paper, the Eagles should dominant defensively even with the issues in the secondary because there is no conceivable way NY's offensive line is going to be able to handle Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Co.
"You have to be careful to not expect things," Graham admitted while talking to 973espn.com on Wednesday. "That's a desperate team over there and there's is pride as well so we have to approach things like any other week and make sure we handle our business."
That's a polite way of saying the Giants' offensive line is a mess and Jim Schwartz's front is salivating after watching the film this week.
"You still have to be disciplined," the defensive coordinator said. "You still have to read your keys, and you still have to be able to execute. Just because they haven't been very successful in the first two weeks running the ball doesn't mean they're not going to come out in this game and try to run the ball. So we have to play good technique there."
Manning, meanwhile, is a cerebral QB and he likely understands that his OL is outgunned up front so expect a lot of quick throws.
"Play action pass, quick passes, max protect, chip, there's a lot of things that can go into layering the pass rush, and down and distance and score means an awful lot to it, too," Schwartz explained "You rush a lot different when it's 3rd-and-2 than you do on 3rd-and-11. You pin your ears back a little bit on 3rd-and-11. Third-and-2 you've got to play everything.
"I think that not only -- it's not just an important match-up, our D-line against their O-line, but it's everybody else's ability to be able to set that match-up up. I guess that's the way to say it."
So perhaps the biggest test here will be the tackling of the Eagles' banged-up back seven, something that wavered a bit during the second half in Kansas City last week.
"I think you also have to give a little bit of credit to the opponents there," Schwartz said when asked about the tackling issue. "There's some big-time skill players and some guys that can make some plays. We've got to play team defense there and get guys cleaned up and get guys tackled. We can do a better job of that."
If the Eagles do clean that up, there is a very good chance they start 2-0 in the NFC East and keep the Giants winless with a 0-3 start.
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 24, Giants 13
2017 Record: 2-0 (vs. spread, 2-0)
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen