Eagles

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.

NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

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NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

A person with direct knowledge of the situation says attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott are set for an emergency hearing in federal court in New York as they try again to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

Elliott's legal team filed a request for a temporary restraining order Monday and will get a hearing Tuesday in the Southern District of New York, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the filing hadn't been made public.

Last year's NFL rushing leader is suspended for Sunday's game at San Francisco after a federal appeals court overturned an injunction that had allowed him to play this season.

The case is shifting to New York because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Elliott's attorneys have indicated they are still pursuing the case with the New Orleans court.

The person told the AP that U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty would hear arguments Tuesday in New York because the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla, is out of town (see full story).

Packers: Rodgers to have surgery on collarbone
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have surgery on his broken right collarbone, and that his season could be over.

McCarthy said Monday that the two-time NFL MVP would have surgery in the near future. He says that there is no timeline for his potential return.

"The key is to get Aaron healthy, it's not to develop a timeline," McCarthy said.

Rodgers got hurt in the first quarter of the 23-10 loss on Sunday at Minnesota.

Brett Hundley is now the starting quarterback. The Packers also promoted third-stringer Joe Callahan from the practice squad to become the backup quarterback.

Cornerback Quinten Rollins was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury to make room for Callahan (see full story).

Steelers: Bryant downplays reported trade demand
PITTSBURGH -- Yes, Martavis Bryant wants a trade.

To the Golden State Warriors.

Otherwise, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver insists he's just fine even after multiple reports that he asked the team to ship him elsewhere.

Asked Monday if he'd like a change of scenery, Bryant reiterated he's happy in Pittsburgh.

"I'm doing fine, everything is good," he said.

Even if -- at least statistically -- in his return from a year-plus suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy has been underwhelming.

Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards in Sunday's 19-13 victory over Kansas City and has just 17 receptions and one touchdown through six games for the first-place Steelers (4-2). His 13.6 yards per catch is more than 4 yards below his career average while splitting playing time with rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (see full story).

Raiders: Linebacker Bowman signs 1-year deal
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- NaVorro Bowman will make a short move following his release last week from the San Francisco 49ers, signing a $3 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.

"It's a refresher for me," Bowman said after taking part in a walkthrough with his new team. "It's a new picture, new scenery. The guys are a special group of guys. You can just see the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. I'm excited to go out there and play for an offense that is eager to score points. I look forward to it."

Bowman visited the Raiders on Monday and then signed the deal shortly after that, cancelling a planned visit to the Dallas Cowboys. He went right into meetings with the assistant coaches and could be ready to play when the Raiders (2-4) host the first-place Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

Bowman said he will do extra work this week to learn the defense and said he plans to play this week if he's prepared enough. The Raiders will be happy to get him on the field to add some experience to a young group of inside linebackers (see full story).

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

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Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. — Quinton Dunbar takes pride in the way Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray makes every member of the secondary prepare as though he's starting.

"When you get in, you are expected to play like a starter," Dunbar said.

That approach has come in handy this season. Already 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman, fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Stefan McClure have gone down with injuries, and second-year safety Su'a Cravens left the team to contemplate retirement.

It's possible Breeland, who sprained his left knee Sunday against San Francisco, and Norman, who has been out with a broken rib, play Monday night.

If they can't go, Washington will lean heavily on Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and rookies Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau and Joshua Holsey against quarterback Carson Wentz and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

"It'll be a great challenge because he's playing extremely well," Gruden said.

"Our guys will have to step up. That's just the way it is. There's a lot of teams around the National Football League this time of year that are dealing with key injuries at certain positions and we just had a couple of them at the corner spot. Fabian, Dunbar, they'll have to step up and play well (along with) Holsey, Fuller."

Breeland began the 49ers game as the top cornerback with Norman out and took a block at the knee from offensive lineman Joe Staley. Gruden said Breeland escaped serious MCL damage and is a quick healer, so he could be ready to face the 5-1 Eagles.

Norman will ramp up his running and exercise this week, and Gruden said "there's a chance" he plays Monday.

The news isn't so good for rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who could miss three weeks or more with a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, and kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose right hip rotator muscle strain will force the Redskins to work out free agent kickers this week.

Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Washington hasn't yet had to look for external help because it has four 2016 or 2017 draft picks on the roster and able to take on extended roles.

"We are as strong as our weakest link and we always talk about not having the drop-offs," said Fuller, a 2016 third-round pick. "Anybody who is in there, we trust to make plays."

The Redskins have had no choice but to trust their young players, including Dunbar, a 25-year-old converted receiver. Injuries to D.J. Swearinger and Nicholson on Sunday almost forced Fuller to move from cornerback to safety where he saw no snaps at practice, and Moreau had to take over on the outside when Breeland was hurt in the second half.

Moreau, a third-round pick who missed the start of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, said players follow Swearinger's lead to be ready for any situation.

"We got dogs," Moreau said. "We all trust each other. We all feed off of him, and we know that."

Of all the young defensive backs, no one has made a bigger leap than Dunbar, who was a receiver at Florida. Gruden joked that Dunbar isn't "really smart enough to know the magnitude of the situation he's in" and just goes out and plays.

Dunbar said after what he went through growing up that football's a pleasure for him and he doesn't blink. But he has made incredible strides since shifting to cornerback.

"Mentally I'm a thousand times better," Dunbar said. "I always had the physical attributes, man. It was more mental for me -- just breaking down the offenses, learning what's coming and stuff like that."

That'll come in handy against Wentz as the 3-2 Redskins try to close the gap and keep this a competitive division race.

From the coverage to the pass rush, Washington's defense must be better against Wentz than it was in a 30-17 loss in Week 1.

"We've got to figure out a way to contain Wentz," Gruden said. "He killed us with the off-schedule plays, and he's been doing that consistently throughout the year. That's why they're 5-1. It's a big game for us. We know that."