Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles (1-1) vs. Giants (0-2)
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -6

The Eagles try to jump out to a 2-0 start in NFC East play Sunday but host a desperate Giants squad whose season is already on the line in Week 3.

New York's record is in danger of falling to 0-3, which would seriously cripple whatever playoff hopes the franchise has. This is as close to must-win as an NFL game gets in September. However, the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense will be searching for answers against a hostile Eagles defense at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles enter the week with a 1-1 record after a tough loss in Kansas City. A win would not only push the club back above .500 on the year but also keep them ahead of the sticks so to speak in terms of the division standings.

Eli Manning at the Linc
The Giants' offense was broken long before the 2017 season got underway. New York hasn't eclipsed 19 points in any of the last eight contests, including playoffs — a stretch that runs through last December.

As if the unit didn't have enough problems, their quarterback will be walking into an environment where he's been notoriously awful. Since 2009, Eli Manning has completed 60.0 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Giants are 2-6 in those contests, and 4-14 in their last 18 meetings with the Eagles, period.

In other words, if Manning and his mates are going to get their season turned around, this would not appear to be the matchup to do it. Add in the fact the Eagles' defense looks like it has the potential to be a top-five unit, and New York's offense could be in for another long day.

Key matchup: Giants WR Odell Beckham vs. Eagles secondary
If the Giants get any kind of reprieve at all, it could come in the form of the numerous injuries in the Eagles' secondary. Defensive backs Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins have already been ruled out, and starting free safety Rodney McLeod is questionable. All three are dealing with hamstring injuries.

While this might sound favorable for the Giants' receiving corps, it remains to be seen whether that group will be able to take advantage. Three-time Pro Bowl selection Odell Beckham Jr. missed Week 1 with an ankle injury and was still limited in Week 2, finishing with four receptions for 36 yards against the Lions. Meanwhile, fellow wideouts Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd have been little more than window dressing in his absence, and tight end Evan Engram is a rookie.

It's going to be interesting to see which Beckham shows up, as he has the potential to raise the level of play of Manning's secondary targets as well. In particular, whether Beckham can get over the top of a gimpy McLeod — or whoever winds up in centerfield for the Eagles — could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Balance is important, but avoiding turnovers is essential
For all the talk about the Eagles' run-pass ratio this week, the real reason they failed to pull out a win over the Chiefs came down to something much simpler: turnovers.

The Eagles gave the ball away twice last week, on the road no less, which is a huge no-no. Both plays occurred in enemy territory, too, giving the opponent a short field — a Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return that led to a quick field goal (and cost the Eagles a possession), and a Carson Wentz interception that eventually wound up in a touchdown the other way. Meanwhile, Kansas City did not turn the ball over at all.

Sure, the Eagles need to commit to the ground attack. Even a bad running game has some benefits. But what really cost the team in a seven-point loss last Sunday were the giveaways.

No matter how many times the Eagles run or throw the football against the Giants, there is no excuse for giving a struggling offense more opportunities. Then again, that might mean handing the ball to LeGarrette Blount 20 times for three yards and a cloud of dust and playing the field-position game is the way to go here.

A chance to take a commanding lead
Don't expect anything to come easy. This is a rivalry game, against a team with its share of problems, but a championship-caliber quarterback and respectable defense. If the Giants can't get anything going on offense, the Eagles might be able to run away in this one, but more likely, it will be close.

That being said, if the Eagles can pull off the victory in front of their own crowd, they will be the first NFC East team to 2-0 in the division. The Giants will fall to 0-2, and Washington is sitting at 0-1. Only the Cowboys currently have a win as well and will be 1-0.

A win Sunday moves the Eagles to 2-1 on the season. More importantly, it would put them ahead of the curve in their division, which despite the potential for New York to fall out of the race early, looks like it will be very competitive as usual.

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.