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Eye On the Eagles: Breaking down the matchup

Posted Sep 21, 2017

Giants.com scouts the opposing offense, defense, and special teams:




EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will attempt to earn their first victory in the 2017 season on Sunday, when they face the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles played each of their first two games on the road, winning their opener in Washington before losing last week in Kansas City.

The Giants lead the regular-season series, 83-79-2, and the postseason series is tied, 2-2. The longtime rivals split their season series in 2016 for the first time since 2013. It was their first split in which each team won at home since 2012. The Giants have lost their last three games in the Linc, where they are 6-8 in the regular season and 0-1 in postseason play. The Eagles were 6-2 at home last year.

>> GIANTS VS. EAGLES STORYLINES

What is the Eagles’ biggest strength?

Their defensive front, which is as talented and deep as any defensive front in the NFL. Few teams pressure passers as consistently as the Eagles. Opposing rushing yards are an incidental statistic to Philadelphia, which plays the run on their way to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham, who combined for 4.5 sacks of the Eagles’ eight in the first two games, are game-wreckers, and Cox scored on a 20-yard fumble return against the Redskins. Tim Jernigan, acquired in an offseason trade with Baltimore, is a quick tackle who creates matchup problems. Chris Long, who helped New England win the Super Bowl last season, provides quality depth.

Which player is key to the Eagles’ offense?

Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz efficiently gets the ball into the hands of the Eagles’ numerous playmakers. He bides time and moves well in and around the pocket, as Aaron Rodgers does and former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did with great success. Wentz is big and strong, yet nimble, and he keeps his eyes down the field. That enables him to turn potential sacks into big plays. Wentz is more comfortable with coach Doug Pederson’s schemes, and is under center more often this year.

What is the strength of the Eagles’ offense?

The Eagles make an opponent prepare for a lot – zone reads, different formations – but the offensive area that stands out now is the perimeter passing game, which was a weakness in 2016. Philadelphia imported two starting receivers in Alshon Jeffrey, the former Chicago Bear, and Torrey Smith, formerly of Baltimore and San Francisco. Jeffrey is one of those receivers who, when he’s covered he’s open, and Smith is a proven vertical playmaker. Nelson Agholor is the slot receiver. Tight end Zach Ertz is Wentz’s security blanket, LeGarrette Blount rushed for 18 touchdowns last season with the Patriots, and Darren Sproles is capable of scoring any time he touches the ball.


Which player is key to the Eagles’ defense?

Malcom Jenkins is a do-it-all safety. He can play in the box or on top of the defense, and cover tight ends one-on-one. He is a true leader who is the key communicator on the field. Jenkins has six career touchdowns on interception returns, including one against the Giants last Dec. 22, when he twice picked off Eli Manning passes. That performance earned him his fourth career NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award.

What is the strength of the Eagles’ defense?

The ability to play fast, get up the field, and continually hit the quarterback. Philadelphia was among the NFL’s best last season, and is even better this year. Cox and Graham are a two-pronged challenge for any offensive line, and the rest of the line and the linebackers supply ample support. Dropping back and throwing 50 times won’t work against this team, as the Giants discovered on their last trip to Philly, when Manning tossed a career-high 63 passes. The offenses that keep the Eagles’ line off balance have the best chance to succeed.


Which player is key to the Eagles’ special teams?

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott, who was Cincinnati’s fifth-round draft choice this year and was signed off of the Bengals’ practice squad after Caleb Sturgis suffered an injury in Week 1 and was placed on injured reserve. Elliott made two of three field goal attempts in his NFL debut last week in Kansas City, hitting from 34 and 40 yards, but missing a 30-yard try. Against the Giants, Elliott will play his first home game and his first NFC East game, so the pressure on the youngster will increase. Elliott and Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas are both 22 years old.

Statistics you should know:

*The Eagles led the NFL in 2016 with an average time of possession of 32:16, and have owned the ball for an average of 32:32 in their first two games.

*Philadelphia leads the NFL in 10+ yard plays (39) and 10+ yard pass plays (34).

*Since 2014, the Eagles lead the NFL in both kickoff return touchdowns (four) and punt return touchdowns (four).