Eli Manning

Copycat league: Will teams attack Eagles' D the way Giants did?

Copycat league: Will teams attack Eagles' D the way Giants did?

The Giants made a decision last week. They weren't going to give up sacks. 

Coming into that game with a struggling offensive line going against a vaunted pass rush, the Giants made a concerted effort to have Eli Manning get rid of the ball quickly in an attempt to mitigate the pass rush. That's exactly what he did. 

In that game, Manning averaged 1.84 seconds to throw, according to Pro Football Focus. Of his 47 pass attempts, 42 came out of his hand in less than 2.5 seconds. On those attempts, he was 32 for 42 and had a passer rating of 105.4. Five came out in 2.6 seconds or longer — on those he was 3 for 5 with a rating of 72.9. 

The Eagles charted things a little differently. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said they counted 52 drop backs and 34 passes came out in under two seconds. Three were under one second. 

Either way, that's really fast. And Manning wasn't sacked once, although the Eagles won the game. 

"It's tough, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "Eli's a great quarterback. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball before it even got there. All we could do was keep fighting, keep hunting, try to get there. Do what we can to affect the game."

The strength of the Eagles' defense through the first three games of the season has been the front four. That's exactly how Schwartz drew it up. His starters and rotation have done a pretty good job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. 

So did the Giants leave a blueprint? Is this how teams will try to attack the Eagles in the future? 

"We'll see," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think the Giants' offensive line was struggling before they got to us so I think that was an obvious matchup or concern for them was our rush. I'm not sure how teams will see that, if they feel confident they can block them up. The Giants, they were a quick-passing game anyway, where I think the Chargers are a little bit more downfield, a little more vertical of a pass game. But I do think there will be opponents all year that if they can, will try to get rid of the ball a little quicker just to alleviate that rush."

Generally, Jenkins is right about the Chargers. If you think about them, they've historically been a team that likes to throw the ball downfield. But the numbers this year might surprise you. 

While Manning's time to throw this season is the second shortest in the league at 2.34 seconds, Philip Rivers isn't far behind. In fact, Rivers is fifth on that list, getting the ball out in an average of 2.47 seconds. 

This season when throwing the ball in 2.5 seconds or less, Rivers has completed 62.9 percent of his passes with a rating of 94.9. In 2.6 seconds or more, he's just 37.1 percent with a rating of 56.9. 

"He's got a quick release," said Eagles DT Beau Allen, who will likely start this week for the injured Fletcher Cox. "At times, it's a little unorthodox but he can throw the ball wherever he wants to put it, whenever he wants to put it there." 

The interesting thing with Rivers is that he fluctuates. In 2016, he was 18th in the league, getting the ball out in 2.64 seconds. In 2015, he was the second fastest in the NFL, getting it out in an average of 2.4 seconds. 

So it seems like Rivers can do either. Even if the Eagles don't have Cox, why wouldn't he try to get the ball out quickly against them on Sunday?

Now, there's obviously a downside to getting the ball out quickly. If the ball is gone in under two seconds, plays don't have time to develop and teams can't hit big plays. "It limits their explosiveness," Schwartz said. Teams force themselves to kill with a thousand paper cuts. 

Still, it might seem like an enticing option to minimize the impact of the Eagles' pass rush. Plenty of defensive players in the locker room think more teams will try to do what the Giants did last week and get the ball out quickly. 

"It wouldn't surprise me," Jernigan said. "I think that's just going to help us become better players. While we're going through practice and those different things, we'll just have to find ways to get better at it and be ready for Sunday because anything can happen."

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.

The Giants are a bad football team

The Giants are a bad football team

It sounds like Giants coach Ben McAdoo is growing tired of Eli Manning doing Eli Manning things.

Manning’s season is off to a horrendous start, and by extension, the Giants are, too. New York’s record fell to 0-2 on Monday night, as the franchise’s two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback was responsible for blunder after blunder in a 24-10 loss to the Lions.

Manning only threw one interception, but it was so bad, anybody could plainly see it was destined to get picked off the moment the ball left his hand. With 10 minutes remaining and down by 14, Manning decided to look short of the sticks on 4th-and-3, which resulted in a turnover on downs.

But the play that seemed to grate on McAdoo the most after the defeat was a penalty for delay of game in the third quarter. Trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, the Giants lined up to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Somehow, Manning didn’t get the snap off in time, New York was penalized five yards, and the team wound up settling for the field goal anyway.

"Sloppy quarterback play," McAdoo said via Jordan Raanan for ESPN.com. "Quarterback and center need to be on the same page there. We need to get the ball snapped."

It’s not very often you hear an NFL coach be so bluntly and specifically critical of one of his players. Then again, most NFL coaches don’t know the joys of coaching Eli Manning, who does this kind of stuff all the time.

"Because we have a veteran quarterback who has played a lot of football and I expect us to get the ball snapped," McAdoo said, explaining why he didn’t call a timeout with the play clock winding.

Translation: That was entirely, 100 percent on Manning.

Granted, Manning isn’t to blame for all of the Giants’ problems. Not unlike the Eagles, the offense can’t/won’t run the football, averaging 3.4 yards on 18 attempts against the Lions. The pass protection isn’t any better, either, allowing Manning to take 5 sacks and 8 quarterback hits – also reminiscent of the Eagles.

Yet, unlike the Eagles, people were strangely afraid of the Giants coming into the 2017 season. A lot of people had this team pegged as a contender for an NFC East championship, and while it’s too early to rule it out, I’ve never quite been sure why.

Manning and the Giants’ offensive struggles date back to last season, as the team hasn’t eclipsed 20 points in its last eight regular and postseason games – since November. The only real upgrade the front office made in the offseason was to sign 33-year-old wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Sure, New York’s defense is excellent. This isn’t 2007, though. It’s not good enough to overcome this level of offensive ineptitude.

Barring a sudden and dramatic turnaround, the Giants are a bad football team. The offensive line stinks. They have no ground attack to speak of whatsoever. Odell Beckham is the offense’s only viable threat, and he probably isn’t 100 percent. And Eli Manning is as mistake-prone as ever, except he’s 36 years old now and almost certainly is not putting the same mustard on the ball like he used to.

The Eagles host the Giants on a short week this Sunday. Make of that what you will.