Eagles-Giants: Leaky Left Side of OL is One of Eagles’ Few Concerns
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Maybe the biggest issue for the Eagles in the move from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles is the unscripted offense the former provided by extending plays and making something out of nothing when all hope during a particular play seemed lost.
That goes away with the more conventional Foles under center, which means a cleaner pocket is now more important than ever for Philadelphia as the Eagles look to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC over the final three weeks of the regular season.
Foles is one of the better backups in the league but he doesn't have nearly the mobility of escapeability of Wentz and he enters the lineup at a time in which the Eagles have suffered a sharp decline in play on the left side of the offensive line.
During the team's recent West Coast road trip both left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and an amalgamation at left guard, featuring Stefen Wisniewski, and then both Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo when Wiz went down to an ankle injury against the Rams, struggled mightily.
According to ProFootballFocus.com Vaitai allowed two sacks and five hurries on 62 pass-blocks snaps against the Rams. Over the past two weeks, "Big V" has PFF's lowest grade among all offensive linemen, surrendering 15 QB pressures (four sacks, one QB hit, 10 hurries), two more than any other offensive lineman in the entire NFL. To make matters worse, No. 2 on the list is Wisniewski despite only playing in 34 percent of snaps against the Rams before going down.
With his glass already half full from dealing with the Wentz injury, Doug Pederson also took a positive approach when discussing the inconsistencies on the left side, even lauding Vaitai for his play against the Rams.
"You go back to the Seattle game and it's loud as can be, so we were a little late getting off the ball, which caused some pressure on Carson," Pederson explained. "Last week, obviously Wiz was hampered early with an ankle [injury] and so he was trying to hobble on that and eventually had to turn it over to [G] Chance [Warmack] and [G] Isaac [Seumalo]. These guys get reps during the week but they don't get the full complement of reps, so it's a little different, especially going against a guy like that [Aaron Donald] is different. And then at the same time, I felt like Big V [T Halapoulivaati Vaitai] actually had probably one of his better games last week."
Pederson downplayed Wisniewski's injury before practice on Wednesday.
"Wiz is doing well,” the coach claimed. “We’ll monitor his activity today. He will be at practice and is still day-to-day but he should be fine for the game.”
Wiz was indeed at practice but not participating and seemed hobbled a bit so his status will have to be monitored the rest of the week.
The good news is that Foles will get to stick his toe in the water against the dysfunctional Giants' 32-ranked defense on Sunday, a unit that is strangely consistent in its struggles, ranking both 31st against the run and pass.
More so, New York's refusal to move away from Eli Manning at quarterback in favor of Geno Smith or rookie Davis Webb is also hurtful as the Giants rank 29th in offense and Manning has always struggled against the Eagles even when he was having more personal success.
The two-time Super Bowl winner is just 10-17 in his career as a starter against Philadelphia and its only gotten worse in recent seasons as New York is 1-6 against the Eagles over the past seven meetings in the series. Meanwhile, Manning's top targets these days aren't dynamic receivers like the injured Odell Beckham Jr., they are prone-to-drops rookie tight end Evan Engram and slot receiver Sterling Shepard.
The point being is Foles probably doesn't need to worry about putting up 30 points to lead the Eagles to a win this week.
It might not be pretty at MetLife Stadium but it's hard to imagine this NYG team, which has already fired Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese in-season, mustering much offense against the Eagles.
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 21, Giants 10 (2017 Prediction Record: 10-3; vs. spread: 8-5)
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen