This week we went behind enemy lines with Andrew Ilnicki of GMenHQ to find out what the feelings are in northern New Jersey as the Eagles prepare to face the Giants.
1. Do you expect the Giants to use a similar defensive strategy to the first meeting, blitzing Rolle from Vick’s left to force him right?
I do. And I’m satisfied for the most part what the Giants were able to do on defense last time around — I think if it’s Rolle or Aaron Ross, they’re going to send 5 from somewhere and mix it up, but I think coming from Vick’s left and sending Vick right contained him enough and limited his effectiveness enough for the Giants to have a shot at winning.
2. How big of a loss is Steve Smith, given that the Giants have had to play without him quite a bit this year?
It’s always a problem losing your tried and true weapons, and Smith historically always seems to come up big on 3rd downs. Tough guy to replace, but truth be told he’s not having the year he did last year. Nicks has really emerged as the #1 biggest receiving threat the Giants pose — he can do it all. Deep routes, posts, square-ins, quick outs, screens — he’ll turn a simple slant into a big play. So while Smith was a pro bowler last year I think Nicks is the guy that poses the biggest threat to other teams. And I think Mario Manningham and Derek Hagan should step up to fill the void left by Smith going on IR. And it sort of forces Eli to use Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum, Bear Pascoe, and the running backs instead of just utilizing Steve Smith all the time.
3. In six games since the bye, the Giants have given up just one sack – last week, after a five game streak without one. How much has been improved protection, and have there been a lot of max protect schemes? How much is Eli avoiding the pressure and getting rid of the ball?
It all plays in. Firstly – Eli is good about recognizing the pressure and getting rid of it, and the offense is built around that internal clock of his as well. Lots of quick routes with multiple options. A lot of 3 and 5 step drop stuff. Eli is not that mobile, although throwing off his back foot on a bootled he does a nice job. But that’s not the norm, he’s a pocket passer for the most part — so his hot reads and finding the mismatches are really what he’s improved on over the years and it shows. But the O-line has done an incredible job insofar as they have had 10 or 11 different combinations of players since the start of the season, and have blocked really well both in terms of protection for Eli but also in opening up running lanes. Everyone pitches in, TEs, FBs and RBs will chip or even stay in to block outright depending. They find a way to keep Eli off his back.
4. Since the bye, Eli Manning has thrown 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in six games. In seven contests before the bye, he threw 14 scores and nine picks. On the flip side of number three, is Manning getting rid of the ball TOO quickly and making bad decisions?
I think that’s an astute observation. Yes at times, he does get tunnel vision and he makes it easy for a ball hawking defense to make plays. Asante Samuel is one of those guys that will play wherever the QBs eyes are looking, and Eli does not disguise well enough sometimes. I’ve seen him look off defenders like a true veteran, and I’ve seen him telegraph the play right from the get go other times. I want to see more of the former, less of the latter Sunday.
5. Osi Umenyiora was limited in practice with a knee injury. Will that slow him down at all? Justin Tuck was also banged up on Monday, apparently with bruised ribs and a hand injury. Will he be 100 percent by Sunday?
Osi usually takes Wednesdays off and has done so all year with the exception of two weeks ago. It hasn’t slowed him down, it just helps him manage and rest up. Justin Tuck gets worn down every year it seems like, but his leadership for this defense is everything. He’ll put 100% into it every time, but let’s just say I’m glad there’s some depth on the line with JPP, Osi, Tuck, and Tollefson all ready to go at DE.
6. After the first meeting, the Giants were averaging 2.9 turnovers per game. Since, they are averaging just 1.3. What is the biggest reason for the improvement?
No fumbling from the backfield, but the Eagles have a way of bringing out those mistakes in the Giants. Eli has continue to throw picks, but he’s been able to shake it off all season long. He’s trying to fit the ball into tight coverage right out of the gate, trying to get the Giants multi-dimensional right from the start instead of over-relying on the run. I like the bread and butter run and play action routine best, but Gilbride and Manning will likely go with pass, pass, run to shake things up a bit.
7. New York is a +6 in turnover differential through the last three games, obviously in part a product of taking care of the ball. Tom Coughlin emphasized it a great deal after the loss in Philadelphia. Does he seem satisfied with where it’s at now?
He was satisfied I suppose with the improvement in fumbling, but he was really agitated about those INTs last game. The first INT was just not led down the seam — Mannning threw the exact same ball in the 3rd quarter and it went for 25 yards. Sometimes, it really is a game of minutia. The turnovers, It’s really come along though and the defense is creating turnovers quite a bit this year which was a focus all offseason. INTs and forced fumbles have gone a long way for the Giants defense this year and that along with minimizing mistakes is why they’ve gone +6.
8. In your mind, what is the biggest key to this game?
The Giants cannot afford to get behind early, and what usually happens with the Eagles is an early turnover leads to points and it’s hard to overcome. That cannot happen Sunday. The Giants need to play their game at home, control the flow of the game. That means run the football from the outset with success, let it open up the passing game and play action for some big plays early in the game. Get the crowd into it early.