In order to preview the Eagles’ matchup against the Giants, I reached out to our enemies over at Big Blue View. The great Kunal Shah (@KSIXI) kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let's take a look at the answers.
1 - The Giants are off to an 0-2 start after winning 11 games last season. What happened? What’s wrong with this team?
The simple answer to what happened is basically assigning blame to the offensive line. From left tackle to right tackle, the unit has struggled mightily in keeping Eli Manning upright long enough to get the ball to his weapons on the outside. Looking a bit deeper, and you see a little bit more. While the offensive line has been atrocious, Eli Manning doesn't seem to have the same feel in the pocket that he's had in the past. As a result, some of the sacks/negative plays have been on him. The coaching hasn't helped either. The Giants, for some reason, have refused to help Ereck Flowers on the left side, and it's been an issue that has been highlighted prominently in his nightmarish performance against Ezekiel Ansah. There's been no creativity in the offense and time management has been awful. Finally, the Giants offense "works" by getting the ball quickly to their playmakers. Their biggest playmaker hasn't really been available. And no, I wouldn't call Odell Beckham available against the Detroit Lions, he was clearly on a snap count and did not perform the full route tree. So it's been a bunch of things that have plagued the Giants this year.
2 - To what extent does the matchup of the Eagles’ defensive line versus the Giants’ offensive line concern you?
It scares the crap out of me. The Eagles not only have talent, but they have the type of pass rusher that Ereck Flowers really struggles against. He struggles against speed/leverage rushers and that's exactly how Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Derek Barnett operate. It will be a blood bath unless Eli Manning let's go of the ball quickly and they put Rhett Ellison or one of their TEs in the backfield to help.
3 - I saw you mention on Twitter you think Eli Manning is close to being done. Do you think this is his last year with the team? Should the Giants bench him at any point this year in favor of Geno Smith or Davis Webb?
Let me start by saying there's no way in hell he gets benched for Geno Smith or Davis Webb. Not happening. Do I think he's steeply in decline and/or close to being done? Yes. I know many see this guy as "same old Eli" but a closer look shows that it's not. There's one big reason why, and that's Eli Manning's biggest gift was his ability to move in the pocket. He's not Russell Wilson but he would avoid sacks by moving around. He seems to have lost that. He also doesn't seem to have the arm strength that he once had. He still has one or two gorgeous throws a game, but that might not get it done. Realistically, his last year will probably be next year. Cutting him after this year will incur almost $12.5 million in dead money. That number drops to $6 million in 2019. Not out of the question that the Giants could look at QBs this upcoming year.
4 - The Giants have scored 17 points or less in 10 out of 19 games in the Ben McAdoo era. What’s your level of confidence in McAdoo as NYG’s head coach?
My level of confidence in Ben McAdoo is not one of panic, per se. He did lead the team to an 11-5 record in his first year. It is one of concern. The offense has been an issue since 2016. If he doesn't make changes and turn this team around, he could find himself on the hotseat. But as of right now, he's earned an opportunity to try and right this ship.
5 - Odell Beckham Jr. only played about 60% of the Giants’ snaps in Week 2 against the Lions. Do you expect him to be limited again this Sunday?
I do think Odell Beckham will be limited. This is a multi-week issue and ankles can linger, especially for wide receivers that make a living running ultra-precise routes. The best news that we could have hoped for is that Odell did not have a setback in the Detroit game. He'll get more work and will have an expanded route tree against the Eagles but I don't think he'll be at full strength.
6 - What’s the Giants’ recipe for victory? What do they realistically need to do in order to beat the Eagles?
There are several things the Giants need to do. Almost all of it is keeping Eli Manning upright. To do that, they need to:
A) Establish a rhythm with the short passing game. Throw up balls high to Brandon Marshall. Throw slants to Sterling Shepard, Odell Beckham, and Evan Engram. Get the ball out under 3 seconds. Shane Vereen needs to be involved in the passing game. The Eagles are not the team to try and establish your running game against. Short 4 and 5 yard completions, smartly executed screens and maybe some trickery should be the plan.
B) Have an HB like Rhett Ellison or an RB like Vereen or Orleans Darkwa on Manning's hip pocket on every play. Mix and match with them chipping the Eagle DEs or just staying in to block. Max protect like the Minnesota Vikings have done should help.
C) Keep doing what you're doing on defense. The Giants defense has picked up right where it left off, and last week, was without their best cover corner Janoris Jenkins and their up-and-coming middle linebacker B.J. Goodson. Don't allow Carson Wentz to move up in the pocket, stay aggressive, and try and mix up blitzes.
I think this will be a tough game for the Giants but by no means do I think the Eagles are an insurmountable force if the Giants can get it together.
Bonus: Score prediction? Who wins this game and why?
Eagles win this one, 17-13. Division games are close, but the Eagles have a clear matchup advantage here. The Giants defense has allowed 19 points and 17 points (7 came off a punt return against Detroit) and I think that's been a continuation of how many points they've allowed on average in 2016. They are a better defense than they were a year ago due to upgrades at MLB and at FS. The Giants offense has some work to do, but ultimately don't think they figure it out in time to get a win here.