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2023 Playoffs

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Notebook: Divisional Round starts in trenches


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Offensive linemen don't often have a mastery of statistics, but Andrew Thomas knows at least one important number concerning the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I think they have something like 70 sacks," Thomas said.

That figure – tied for the third-highest single-season total in NFL history – is exactly how many sacks the Eagles recorded while winning 14 games and the NFC East title. That was a whopping 15 more sacks than NFL runner-up Kansas City, which, like Philadelphia, earned the No. 1 playoff seed in its conference. The Eagles' intention to put Daniel Jones on the ground will provide a significant challenge for the Giants' offensive line when the teams meet Saturday night in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game in Lincoln Financial Field.

"They're really good," coach Brian Daboll said. "They're hard to block. They can stop the run. They got a lot of really good players. They use them well. They're a challenge to block. On the perimeter, they're a challenge with the tackles. And inside, they're a challenge."

Second-team All-Pro Haason Reddick led the Eagles with 16.5 sacks, which tied him for second in the NFL. Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat have 11 apiece. Fletcher Cox added seven. The Eagles are the first team with four players with at least 10 sacks in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

"It definitely starts with how many guys they have," Thomas said of Philadelphia's pass rush strength. "Most teams, they have a premier pass rusher, and they have a rotation of guys after that. They have guys that rotate that would start on other teams. That obviously just lets you know the talent level. Their coaches do a good job with scheme. They don't just straight rush all the time. They run different schemes depending on which D-tackle is in. That makes a difference, too."

Jones was sacked three times Sunday in the Giants' 31-24 victory against Minnesota in the NFC Wild Card Game.

While the entire offense is charged with keeping Jones upright, the focus will be on tackles Evan Neal and Thomas to obstruct the Eagles' relentless front.

Thomas, who mans the left side, was selected a second-team All-Pro in his third season. Neal, the seventh overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, missed four games with a knee injury but started all 13 in which he played.

"They have good players all across the board, so their coaches let those guys rush," Neal said. "They run some twist games. They pressure. But really, they have good players. So, they let their good players eat."

"They do a good job of switching it up," Thomas said. "I think Josh Sweat will be back this game (after missing the Jan. 8 season finale), so I'll probably see him most of the time and then Brandon Graham rotates a lot more on both sides.

"This year I've seen a lot of power. Don't really get a ton of inside moves and stuff like that. A lot of power and outside moves. Rookie year, because I overset a lot, so they were attacking me inside a lot more. Inside counters and stuff like that."

Graham and defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph (a former Giant) are in their 13th seasons. Cox is an 11-year veteran. Graham has 8.0 career sacks vs. the Giants.

"It's crazy." Thomas said. "It's like he's got the fountain of youth or something. I think this is one of his best seasons ever. He does a good job, he has really good power – does a good job of switching that up, too. Bull, swim, and things like that. A great rusher for them."

Jones is very happy Thomas protects his blind side.

"I've always had a lot of confidence in Andrew," Jones said. "I think he's been rock solid. Like anybody playing that position, early on there's some things you've got to learn, but I thought he learned them quickly and there's no one playing at a higher level right now at that position in the league. Huge credit to him, he's an unbelievable player. If you saw how he works and how he approaches every day, you wouldn't be surprised."

Neal has never recoiled from the struggles he's had at times in his rookie season.

"Failure's a part of life," he said. "I feel like failure is something you learn from, and that's kind of how I've been approaching it. The good things I do out there, I try to capitalize on them and do more of them. The bad things, I try to clean them up the best way I can."

Philadelphia won both regular-season games between the teams. On Dec. 11, they sacked Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor seven times, the highest total by a Giants opponent this season. In the second meeting, the Eagles took down Davis Webb twice.

"They've got good players and they know how to get to the quarterback," Jones said. "We'll have a plan for those guys, and we've got a lot of confidence in our guys up front. They've played really well the whole year and they'll be ready to go."

View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

*Because they played just two days ago, the Giants conducted a walk-through on Tuesday, so practice participation was projected for the injury report.

Six players were limited: Defensive backs Adoree' Jackson (back), Julian Love (hamstring), Fabian Moreau (hip) and Landon Collins (ankle); wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (ankle); and linebacker Azeez Ojulari (ankle).

Safety Jason Pinnock, who left the Giants' victory in Minnesota with an abdomen issue, practiced fully.

View rare photos of the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.