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Giants vs. Eagles: Thursday Night Storylines

Five storylines heading into the Giants’ Thursday night game against the Eagles:

1. Chance to reshape the season. The Giants find themselves with just one win through five weeks, but the good news is their three NFC East rivals have only two apiece. That’s the state of the division right now, setting up an opportunity for the Giants to reshape their season with the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (2-3) coming to MetLife Stadium on Thursday night. It kicks off a Week 6 slate that includes Washington (2-2) at home against Carolina (3-1), and Dallas (2-3) playing host to Jacksonville (3-2).

“That is what it is, but it’s just another indication and I’ve been saying it all along, you just keep playing,” coach Pat Shurmur said in the wake of their loss to the Panthers on a 63-yard field goal with one second remaining. “You never know. I think the last two times that the Giants made the [playoffs], I think they were 9-7, so we’ve just got to keep playing. These guys love to play the game, it’s their livelihood, but they certainly play it with great emotion and great passion and they just keep playing. As we get better, I think we played better last week. We need to find 63 more yards somewhere to get the win, but we played better and we’ve got to continue on that path. Then eventually it will crack.”

2. OV, EE to return? While cornerback Eli Apple returned to the starting lineup this past Sunday, outside linebacker (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) were still on the mend. The challenge of playing on Thursday night is the injury report, but Shurmur said he is still “hopeful” for Vernon and that Engram “has a shot” for the Eagles game.

“Two things: Number one, I think you burn the ships on every game, so whoever can play, plays,” Shurmur said. “Then you reassess when the game is over. Evan’s been out for a while, but he’s going to be out here full speed today, so we are hopeful he will be ready to go. I think you get yourself in trouble, and I don’t think it’s very genuine to tell your team we’re going to worry more about down the road.”

3. Offense shifting into gear. The Giants had three pass plays of 25 yards or more in their first four games. In the fifth, they had five as part of a 31-point, 432-yard offensive output in Carolina. Now they go against an Eagles defense ranked 10th in total yards per game (343.2), 22nd against the pass (276.8), second against the run (66.4), and seventh in scoring (20.8). In the two games against the Eagles last season, Eli Manning threw 104 passes, and completed 72 for 800 yards. All three figures are Giants records for a single season against one opponent. All three were also the high totals for any quarterback against any team in 2017, leading incoming Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to say it was “not a mirage” for the franchise quarterback.

4. Flowers placed on waivers; Giants add insurance at kicker. The Giants’ transaction wire was buzzing at the start of a short week. Right tackle Ereck Flowers, the former ninth overall draft pick, was placed on waivers. Brian Mihalik was signed off the practice squad to take his place as the swing tackle. That left an opening for kicker Marshall Koehn, who was signed to the Giants’ practice squad after Aldrick Rosas came out of Sunday’s game with a sore quad on his kicking leg.

Koehn was with the Giants from Jan. 1 until his release on Sept. 1. He has played in one NFL game for Cincinnati in 2017, making his only extra point attempt in addition to one touchback on two kickoffs. Rosas, who improved to 11-for-11 on the season after making three field goals against the Panthers, and tight end Rhett Ellison (foot) did not practice on Tuesday. Defensive lineman Josh Mauro (groin) and wide receivers Jawill Davis (shoulder) and Russell Shepard (neck) were limited.

5. Shurmur vs. Pederson. The Giants and Eagles have gone for it on fourth down six times this season, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. That shouldn’t be all that surprising given the shared backgrounds of their head coaches. Shurmur’s NFL coaching career began with the Eagles under Andy Reid in 1999, the year quarterback Doug Pederson arrived. Two decades later, they meet as head coaches.

“Yeah, I know a lot about Doug,” Shurmur said. “I was a young assistant in Philly when we brought him in as a player, and he really was the bridge to [Donovan] McNabb playing, they drafted McNabb and Doug played the first half of the season and did a really good job. He was with [Reid] in Green Bay, so he was able to add kind of the background to the stuff we were trying to do. He did an excellent job of working with Donovan at that time, and then we’ve just maintained a professional friendship through the years. He’s had success, and to his credit, he helped his team win a Super Bowl.”

Pederson’s team got there by knocking off Minnesota, where Shurmur was offensive coordinator at the time, in the NFC Championship Game. And he did it with backup quarterback Nick Foles, who is back on the sideline after Carson Wentz returned in Week 3. Wentz is completing 67.2 percent of passes this season with five touchdowns to one interception.

“I see a hybrid of things that we did the three years I was there with Chip [Kelly] in terms of the run game,” said Shurmur, who had a second stint with the Eagles as their offensive coordinator for three years prior to his arrival in Minnesota. “They have Jeff Stoutland there, who’s their line coach, and there’s some other coaches there, there’s some carry over, so I see some of those same concepts, but then you also see the things that Doug did at the Chiefs. They try to utilize their players’ strengths, they throw the ball to the tight ends a lot with Zach Ertz and [Dallas Goedert].

“In terms of the quarterback, I think we were all a big fan of Carson when he came out. He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive, I admire the fact that he’s very genuine in his approach. I don’t know him per se, but it seems to me that there’s a humility there and a competitive spirit that I’m sure is contagious for their team. He can make plays off schedule because he’s a big, physical guy. I call them 60-yard check downs, it just turns into flat chaos, he’s running around, and he can locate a guy down the field and make a big play. I think that’s what he is as a player, at least from my perspective.”

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