Editor’s note: Staff writer Steve Fini breaks down the Eagles defensive matchups against the Giants offense.
The Eagles have a statistically top-five defensive line. They’re going up against a Giants offensive line that over the offseason lost some veterans. Many consider their line to be considerably weaker. Defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin, along with tackle Cullen Jenkins, are getting to the quarterback. That’s a great sign because defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has decided to take blitzing almost completely out of his game plan.
As is the case whenever these teams meet, the Eagles pass rush will be key to stopping the Giants. New York loves to run the ball, and they do it well. If the Eagles can’t stop the run, which they haven’t done so far, they’re going to need to force Eli Manning to make mistakes. While it’s almost certain that the Eagles won’t entirely shut down the Giants run, they must prevent big gains on first down. This will put Manning in third and long situations, situations in which he’s more prone to making mistakes.
This might be an easier test for our linebackers than we all think. Sure the Giants can run the ball. Yes, Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants change of pace back, can catch the ball out of the backfield; but they don’t have a big time tight end. The Giants let tight end Kevin Boss sign with Oakland. And that decision could prove costly.
After letting Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez go wild last week, the Eagles should be excited to prove they can shut down the Giants safety valves. The Eagles have to limit short, quick passes to Bradshaw and limit the power runs of Jacobs on early downs. The predictability of what the Giants like to do and the fact that they don’t feature a truly dynamic back means that if this group of linebackers is ever going to have a good game it’s likely to be today.
The Eagles cornerbacks were terrific in coverage last week. Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for just five totaling 52 yards. Asomugha and Samuel are playing at an elite level, so if the Eagles safeties can step up this week there should be multiple opportunities to force turnovers. On paper, the only problem facing the Eagles will be Hakeem Nicks. The Eagles haven’t faced a physical receiver like him this season. They have shut down a quick passing attack that the Rams employ. They shut down the speed of Roddy White last week. Now, let’s see if they can body up Nicks.