The Eagles’ season has devolved into a frustrating rut of losses where any hope built up by the team’s 10-1 start has dissipated into despair. It’s not all bad though, somehow. The Monday night loss to the Seahawks was a real bummer, but the Eagles got a handful of encouraging performances out of their rookies. Heading into the final stretch of the season that features two games against the Giants, including one on Christmas, the Eagles could see a lot more good from their first year players.
The Eagles need Jalen Carter’s A-Game
The second half of Jalen Carter’s rookie season has not nearly been as flashy and exciting as the first half. This has been talked about at length and there are a handful of reasons for his dip in production and consistent play. Injury, rookie conditioning, and just too many damn snaps for Carter and the whole rest of the defense. Monday is a big game for the Eagles. A must-win, and Carter will need to be dominant. While the Giants offense is hardly a juggernaut with Tommy DeVito at the head of the table, Carter will be instrumental in slowing down a run-happy unit with Saquon Barkley seeing a lot of touches. Getting the Giants into third and longs will be crucial and stopping up the run is how the Eagles will get them there. The cannot be a repeat of last week where Kenneth Walker was allowed to run at-will.
Can Nolan Smith build on a strong performance?
The Eagles got a really solid showing out of Nolan Smith last week. He played a fast, physical brand of football that allowed him to make some good tackles and disrupt the Seattle offense a bit. The Eagles do not need Smith to be an all-world player, they just need him to make the most out of 15-20 snaps a game to give Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Brandon Graham a breather. The Giants lead the league in sacks allowed with 76 (!!!), so Smith has a soft match up to hopefully wreak havoc and continue his late-season surge.
How do the Eagles use Sydney Brown in this game?
Sydney Brown has become an important role player in the defense and has been asked to do a little bit of everything. He’s played both safety positions, come down into the slot, played nickel linebacker, and been used a few times as a blitzer. Brown’s skillset allows for this sort of versatility and it makes sense the short-handed Eagles have been trying to max out what the rookie can do. Against the Giants, the Eagles are very thin at linebacker (again) and Brown might need to play a bunch of snaps in the box. This will test his ability in run support and he’ll probably be tasked with covering Darren Waller, neither an easy task.
What will the cornerback rotation look like?
The Eagles secondary came up small in the biggest moment last week. James Bradberry got burnt to hell by Jaxon Smith-Njigba to give up the game-winning touchdown and now we have to wonder if the secondary will be shaken up this week. Darius Slay is out for at least another week as he recovers from a knee surgery and Avonte Maddox isn’t ready to return. The big question is at outside cornerback. Kelee Ringo looked good against a talented group of Seahawks cornerbacks and Eli Ricks held his own last week after struggling in previous games. Do we see the rookies get a bit more run as James Bradberry gets pushed for snaps or does the veteran get another chance to hold it down against his former team.
Any chance we see Tyler Steen?
Landon Dickerson is out on Monday after getting surgery on his thumb. With Cam Jurgens back in the lineup at right guard, it’s likely that Sua Opeta kicks over to the left side after filling in for Jurgens on Sunday. Opeta has been fine overall this season and he’s been called on a lot, but it’s hard not to forget how solid Tyler Steen looked against the Cowboy a few weeks ago when asked to fill in at right guard. Left guard might be trickier for Steen given he’s only really played either at right guard or left tackle, but the proposition of getting the talented rookie more snaps is attractive. It’s unlikely, but Steen has been called on before when Opeta struggled. If needed, Tyler Steen could be called on again in this game.