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Ballard's Big Plays Among TE Leaders


Here's a stat. Jake Ballard has more catches of 20 yards than the high-flying DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

The Giants tight end has 11, third among his position in the league, while Jackson has eight and Maclin has 10, good for middle of the pack among wide receivers.

"That's just getting lucky, I guess," Ballard said. "That's the play calling."

Ballard and his corps will need some of both against an Eagles defense that, despite giving up 17 touchdowns through the air, is 11th against the pass and even better when it comes to covering tight ends.

Philadelphia, on average, has about eight passes thrown to tight ends and gives up fewer than 40 yards a game to them. That's fifth in the NFL and 15 yards below the league average.

"They have good cover guys. They have young linebackers who are fast and athletic," Ballard said. "So it's hard to squeeze those passes in there, but I have seen tight ends catch the ball against them. (Cowboys tight end) Jason Witten had a couple of balls against them. It's definitely possible. You just have to work a little harder to get open."

The Eagles' wide nine front allows defensive ends, such as Jason Babin and Trent Cole, to bang tight ends on their way out, disrupting the rhythm and the route. To counteract, teams can widen their offensive splits as well.

That has been the formula for Witten, who in 16 games against the Eagles in his career has 91 receptions for 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns.

Both Ballard and Bear Pascoe said they have been watching film of the seven-time Pro Bowler, who had four catches in their loss to the Eagles' earlier this season.

"Guys just [have to be] physical with them and they just bang their way out," said Pascoe, who had a season-high 23 yards and two catches last week. "As far as route running goes and stuff, watching Jason Witten, he's very good at setting guys up and breaking out. So that's one film that we've kind of been keying on and kind of watching, see how he does in his technique."

Wide nine or not, Ballard, in the middle of a breakout season, has noticed a slight change in the way teams are playing him.

"A little bit, but it's not like they're doing anything crazy," Ballard said. "Maybe they'll play two people over me sometimes, but most of the time they don't or they just tell their defensive ends to make sure they get a hit on me before I get out. That's just part of the game, and I need to keep improving."

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