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5 Things We Learned

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5 Things We Learned: Coordinators speak ahead of Week 16

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The Giants are gearing up for the final stretch of the season with two games against the Philadelphia Eagles in the next three weeks.

After snapping their three-game win streak with a 24-6 loss in New Orleans this past Sunday, the Giants will look to get back in the win column against their division rival. On the other sideline, the Eagles come into this game on a three-game losing streak of their own after falling to the Seahawks this past Monday.

Giants coordinators Wink Martindale, Mike Kafka and Thomas McGaughey met with the media Thursday for their weekly press conferences.

Here are five things we learned ahead of the Week 16 Christmas Day matchup.

1. Stopping 'The Brotherly Shove'

Anyone that has watched the NFL over the last few seasons has become familiar with a play made famous by the Eagles. Most call it the "Tush Push" while fans in Philadelphia have adopted the name "The Brotherly Shove." Regardless of its name, it has become one of the most efficient plays in all of football, with the Eagles finding more success running it than any other team.

Last season, the Eagles had a 93.5 percent success rate running this play, the highest in the league, and they have found similar success again this year. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale acknowledged the difficulty of stopping it when talking to the media Thursday.

"I think that, obviously, they are really good at it because they know – it's just like a rugby scrum and if you see a rugby scrum, in the sport of rugby, it goes this way, it goes this way, it goes this way, it goes this way, (pointing fingers in different directions)," the defensive coordinator said. "Well, if it moves at all a little bit forward, they are going to give them the forward progress. It doesn't matter how you play it. And I think every defensive coordinator, every coach in this league, has looked at different ways to try to stop it and it's just a tough play to stop."

Martindale went on to say that the best way to prevent Philadelphia from running a successful "Tush Push" is to not let them get into short down situations.

"You have to protect all angles of it, they have plays off of it as well," said Martindale. "But I mean as a defense, I think that you have to just look at every down, every first down, it's not first and 10, it's first and nine. So, I mean if you just look at it that way, you just got to give it your best shot when they get in those situations."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 16 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Getting Saquon back on track

Running back Saquon Barkley had a tough time finding open lanes in Sunday's game against the Saints. Barkley carried the ball nine times for 14 yards and added two receptions for 23 yards. His 11 total touches, 37 yards from scrimmage and 1.6 yards per carry were all his lowest of the year. Despite last week's difficulties, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka made it clear that the talented running back will be on the field as much as possible this Monday.

"I'd say we want Saquon out on the field as much as possible," Kafka said. "Saquon will be out there until he needs to get out, until he needs a blow – he needs to catch his breath and get back out there. That's really how we work out with him. He's out there as long as he can until he needs a tap, and another guy comes in. "

Running on the Philadelphia defense is no easy task. The Eagles enter this matchup ranking seventh in both yards and touchdowns allowed on the ground. However, in their last five games, Philadelphia has surrendered an average of 145 rushing yards per game as every opponent has reached at least 100 yards on the ground.

3. Challenge of facing Jason Kelce

We touched on Philadelphia's success running the "Tush Push" earlier, and there are certainly a few different players who have a significant role in the team's high conversion rate on that play. Perhaps the most important piece, outside of quarterback Jalen Hurts, is center Jason Kelce.

Kelce has put together an impressive NFL career since the Eagles selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The 36-year-old center has been named First-Team All-Pro five times and has also earned six selections to the Pro Bowl, and is once again one of Pro Football Focus' highest-ranked centers in the league this season.

"Look, one of the biggest things, one of the greatest challenges of playing Philly, is going against Jason Kelce," Martindale told reporters. "I mean, this guy to me is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He embodies Philly. Just like the fans, mean but smart. This guy, to me, and I said this last year and I don't know if I said it to you guys, it's like playing (former Colts and Broncos quarterback) Peyton Manning and it's not sexy so he doesn't get that Peyton Manning type credit, but he'll see something, whether it's a stance, whether it's a guy putting his mouthpiece in different. He'll see something and completely flip a protection. So, that chess match is always tough."

If Martindale wants to pick up some inside intel on the Eagles center, he doesn't have to go too far. Mike Kafka spent his first two seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback on the Eagles and overlapped with Kelce in Philadelphia in 2011.

"He came in, he was a smart kid," Kafka added about his former teammate. "He was a sponge, trying to learn everything. He was also very vocal, just like he is today. He's a great dude, one of my good friends, so nothing but respect for him."

4. Preparing for new Eagles' defensive play-caller

Heading into their Week 15 game, the Eagles defense had struggled to slow down opponents this year. Prior to the game, the Eagles announced that they were making a change on the coaching staff, naming senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia the new defensive play-caller on the field, while defensive coordinator Sean Desai moved up to the booth. In their first game following this change, the Eagles held the Seahawks to 297 total yards of offense.

"With Coach Patricia now calling it and Sean over the first half of the season, there's some similarities, a lot of similarities," said Kafka. "Obviously, the personnel there, it stays consistent. Coach Patricia – I think there was a couple things that might have felt a little bit different, now into the second week, probably could anticipate a little bit more of things kind of being changed up. We've got to be ready for everything. Going to prep through – go through our schemes, go through our personnel groupings, and make sure we're tied up there."

Kafka said the coaching staff would put more emphasis on watching the tape from this past Monday's game, as it is the only one with Patricia calling the Philly defense. While he did admit there is somewhat of an unknown to facing a new play-caller, Kafka said the Giants offense will be ready to go Monday.

"You try to gather as much data as you can from this last week and see if there's any tendencies there and then look at kind of the scope of the season and see where things have kind of been played through as well," the offensive coordinator said. "Again, when you have a new play caller, there's a little bit of unknown and that's okay, but we prepare our guys the best we can and get them ready for Monday."

5. Injury/roster updates

Prior to practice, the Giants announced that kicker Randy Bullock has been placed on injured reserve due to the hamstring injury he suffered in Sunday's game. With Bullock out for the remainder of the season, Cade York will now assume kicking duties, Daboll announced Wednesday. York will become the team's third field goal kicker of the season with Bullock and Graham Gano both on injured reserve. Punter Jamie Gillan also kicked a 40-yard field goal during Sunday's game.

"He's getting better," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said about York. "He's working at it. Young specialists are always a work in progress, so those guys are always trying to find a routine, trying to tweak certain things and just work on those small details of what he's doing. Being around Randy and Graham has been huge for him… He's been taking advantage of it. And I told him, this is a godsend for you to be able to be around two veteran kickers that have had double-digit years that have both started over 150 games, played in 150 games, in the same building as you at the same time. That's big for him."

The Giants filled Bullock's spot on the roster by signing defensive lineman Timmy Horne off the Falcons' practice squad. Horne played in all 17 games with five starts for the Falcons last season after signing as an undrafted rookie. He has spent the 2023 campaign on Atlanta's practice squad, but has been elevated for three games. His career numbers include 31 total tackles, two pass breakups and one quarterback hit in 30 games.

Horne could be called upon right away for the Giants, as the defense is dealing with several injuries across the defensive line. While A'Shawn Robinson returned to practice as a limited participant after missing Wednesday's session, fellow linemen Dexter Lawrence and Rakeem Nunez-Roches were both absent.

Tight end Lawrence Cager (groin) and safety Xavier McKinney (illness) also missed Thursday's practice, along with offensive tackle Evan Neal (ankle). The second-year tackle has missed five consecutive games with the ankle injury.

Additionally, running back Matt Breida (hamstring), inside linebacker Carter Coughlin (neck), and punter Jamie Gillan (left groin) were also limited participants at Thursday's practice.

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

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