Five on the NYG
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There is a "Giant" game afoot and first place, at least a part of it, will be on the line for the Eagles Monday night when they host the NFC East-leading New York Giants.
There is a mentality in the NFL that says it's not who you play but when you play them and Philadelphia has the Giants on the schedule at a fortuitous time as the injuries have continued to mount for Tom Coughlin's club.
New York's best offensive player, second-year receiver Odell Beckham Jr., hasn't been able to practice yet after injuring his hamstring in last Sunday's 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The star wideout has been doing some individual work and his presence will be key for Eli Manning and Co. so the extra day is obviously an asset for New York.
Most believe OBJ will try to go but hamstrings are tricky injuries for thoroughbreds and Beckham has had a history with them, missing the first month of his rookie season with the injury and being hampered with another hamstring issue throughout the offseason.
"Treatments, treatments, treatment," Beckham said of the plan for this week leading up to the game. "Just make sure you stay on top of it all. Come out and prepare for Monday."
OBJ's injury is further exacerbated by the fact that Victor Cruz, who suffered his devastating torn patellar tendon in Philadelphia last season, is still not close to returning and fellow receiver Rueben Randle is dealing with his own hamstring problem.
"We'll see (with Beckham)," Coughlin said. "He's day-to-day."
Most of us are but not the Giants' best cornerback, Prince Amukamara, who has already been ruled out of Monday's contest with a partially torn pectoral muscle.
"It's most unfortunate," Coughlin said. "He's made a lot of plays for us this fall. We'll continue on and we will get him back.".
Jayron Hosley, a former third-round pick who has struggled mightily at times, will get the start in Amukamara's place, opposite of former Eagles Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
"We played a game and won a game with Hosley starting at corner," Coughlin said. "He'll have to jump in there and do that, which I'm sure he's excited about."
(Listen to John McMullen give his 5 on the Giants and more from Friday's practice)
THAT PASS RUSH
New York's pass rush has been nonexistent without Jason Pierre-Paul, ranking 27th in the NFL with just seven sacks and that has contributed mightily to the team's 32nd-ranked pass defense, which has allowed 304.2 passing yards a game.
Help could be on the horizon as Robert Ayers, who missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, has been back at practice. While Ayers is serviceable, however, he's no JPP and the Giants struggling front will be hitting the Eagles just as Philadelphia's much-maligned offensive line is starting to play up to its reputation, particularly All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, who dominated as a pass protector against New Orleans.
"The one thing, I think about, (Giants defensive coordinator and former Eagles' assistant Steve Spagnuolo's) defense, they're great at disguising (the blitz) where you think it's coming over here and then it comes over there." Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "It's such a (former Eagles Defensive Coordinator) Jim Johnson influence for him, but I think he's still doing a lot of those similar things, and it's part of us being able to recognize it.
"With any blitz like that, you can take advantage of it if you're geared into it and see it and are ready. But you may think it's coming from this side and then it comes from here and you're not ready for it. But he does a great job with it, and it's been a staple in the defense that he's running now in New York."
BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Not a lot of people had high hopes for this Giants team coming into the season and one of the major reasons for that was the offensive line, which projected as one of the league's worse even before starting left tackle Will Beatty went down with a torn pec.
That forced first-round pick Ereck Flowers to take over Manning's blind side with ex-Packers bust Marshall Newhouse handling the right side. Neither has performed all that well in pass protection but they have been better than expected thanks to a strong interior group which has really come on.
Left guard Justin Pugh, a former first-round pick, was miscast outside at tackle but has performed well on the inside as has second-year center Weston Richburg and journeyman right guard Geoff Schwartz.
"They're doing a good job of keeping (Eli Manning) clean," Kelly said. "I think it's a product of the offense, too. Eli is doing a great job of getting the ball out of his hands quick. He's got some receivers that can uncover quickly. I think sometimes it's easier said than done where the quarterback has just got to get the ball out of his hands; well, the receivers have got to get open, too, and they've got a very talented bunch of receivers. They do a good job of spreading you out.
"But that line, they've made some moves. They've moved Pugh, who's playing really well right now. Flowers was a first-round draft pick who is playing well right now at left tackle. They're doing a good job protecting him. I think it's four sacks in five games, which is way down from what it had been in past years. I think it's a combination of the player -- I think the moves they've made with the players have really benefited them, but a lot of it really goes to Eli's second year in the system."
Men Without Hats certainly approve of the way the Giants have handled their defensive backfield and if you got that 1980s musical reference give yourself a gold star.
After placing four different options on injured reserve New York's "safety dance" landed on rookie Landon Collins and unproven Taylor Cooper with a little of Washington retread Brandon Meriweather mixed in.
They can all bring the wood but coverage is a problem, so much so that even Josh Huff, who is coming off a career-game with five receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, is feeling his oats.
"I know they have a rookie in the back end at safety," Huff said of Colins. "He is a down in the box guy. Not a real good cover guy with man. But he can come down and hit, tackle very well. They all, at sometimes, get lost in coverage, I would say."
FEELS LIKE A SPROLES DAY
Manning and Sam Bradford are tied atop the NFL in one statistical category, most dropped passes by their receivers.
So with Manning dealing with a hamstring-hampered OBJ, along with a weak supporting cast at receiver and Bradford throwing to a corps that boasts Jordan Matthews as its top option, you start looking at others who could have a major impact.
And Darren Sproles fits that bill this week.
We already ran through New York's issues at safety and it also may be down oft-injured middle linebacker Jon Beason, who left the Niners' game with a concussion and is still going through the NFL-mandated protocol. Beason's backup, Uani' Unga, has the worst pass coverage grade among all NFL ILBs, according to Pro Football Focus, and it's hard to imagine Unga keeping up with Sproles.
973espn.com predication: Eagles 34, Giants 17
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen