Part of a new campaign the SB Nation NFL blogs will be participating during this 2014 season involves answering questions posed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk, who is also an analyst at NFL Network, asked his latest question in the video above: "Alright Philly and New York, being Professional Grade means innovating to make sure you come out on top. Philly’s coach is known for his innovation. Now, when you look at New York’s offensive coordinator, seems like he’s been a little creative too. For rivals that know each other very well, does innovation even matter when it comes down to these type of match ups? Which defense has the tougher challenge, Philly or New York?"
There are two questions here, so I will answer them separately.
1) Execution matters more than innovation.
The Eagles don't need to outsmart the Giants in order to beat them this week. They just need to execute. It's that simple. Philadelphia's offense isn't in a slump due to a lack of creative play-calling from head coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles are struggling because two of the most important players on the team aren't playing as well as they need to be. Obvious culprits quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy both need to be better. While it's true that a weakened offensive line makes life more difficult for both players, there are still plays to be made.
The success of Foles and McCoy is connected. If Foles can deliver a more accurate ball and attack the Giants through the air, New York won't be able to key in on McCoy as much. Similarly, if McCoy can find a way to make defenders miss and run through the New York defense, more passing space might open up for Foles. Play-action would become more effective.
In Week 5 against the Rams, Chip Kelly found some ways to aide his struggling players. He drew up plays for Foles that focused on short passes and quick screens as opposed to forcing him to throw deep, which is an area where Foles is struggling. He also gave McCoy some assistance by running him behind unbalanced lines with left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Lane Johnson both on the right side of the line. Little tweaks like this can help but they aren't the entire solution. It sounds simple and boring, but the fact of the matter is that both players need to execute better.
2) Philadelphia's defense has the tougher challenge.
Normally I would say the defense facing Philadelphia's offense has the tougher challenge, but I can't say that now considering the Eagles' offensive struggles. That, plus the Giants currently rank tied for 5th in offensive points scored per game with 26.6. The G-Men have scored an average of 35 points per game during their last three contests, which have all been wins.
The Eagles defense isn't as bad as some make it out to be. Philadelphia is allowing the 15th most yards per play and the 15th most points per play. The unit also ranks 16th overall in defense DVOA. That's way closer to average than being terrible. For all the complaints of a lacking pass rush, the Eagles have recorded 8 sacks in the past two weeks including 2 sack/fumbles. Also consider that this is a defense that has forced at least one turnover in 18 consecutive games.
Philadelphia's secondary remains a concern, however. Outside of Malcolm Jenkins, who has played pretty well, cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher do not inspire a lot of confidence. Safety Nate Allen can be exposed in coverage as well. It'll be interesting to see if this unit can handle Eli Manning and the Giants' passing attack.
The truth is that the Eagles defense has played well enough to win in recent weeks. The onus is really on the Philadelphia offense to stop underachieving and live up to potential.