Eagles

5 key matchups to watch in Eagles-Giants on Thursday Night Football

Eagles

The Eagles (1-4-1) host the Giants (1-5) on Thursday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Darius Slayton vs. Darius Slay

This one was fun to type but it’ll actually be important in the game too. The Giants have a pitiful offense, ranked 31st overall and 30th in the pass game. But if they have one true receiving threat right now it’s Slayton. Slayton has 25 catches for 406 yards and 3 touchdowns this season but it’s been a really uneven year for him. He has two games with over 100 yards receiving and in the other five he hasn’t gone over 53.

Last week, the Eagles had Slay stay on the left side of the field instead of following Marquise Brown. Nickell Robey-Coleman played on the ride side. But in this game, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. The secondary is in what seems like a constant state of change. Last week, Jalen Mills was back at safety NRC was outside and Cre’Von LeBlanc was in the nickel and Will Parks was everywhere else.

If LeBlanc stays at the nickel this week, watch him against Sterling Shepherd, who is reportedly expected back in the lineup. Shepherd missed the last four games with a toe injury.

Andrew Thomas vs. Derek Barnett/Josh Sweat

The Giants benched their rookie left tackle for part of their win against Washington for disciplinary reasons (he rotated in and played 22 snaps). But the fact that many thought it might have been performance-based tells you all you need to know about the No. 4 overall pick right now.

 

While a couple of offensive tackles drafted behind Thomas have played well, Thomas has been a big disappointment. He is ranked as the 61st best tackle in the NFL by ProFootballFocus. In six games, he has given up 4 sacks, 24 hurries and 31 pressures. No tackle in the NFL has given up more hurries or pressures than Thomas.

The Giants haven’t said if Thomas or fellow rookie Matt Peart will start on Thursday.  But either way this matchup favors the Eagles.

If the Eagles continue their rotation the way they did on Sunday, expect Barnett and Sweat to go up against Thomas or Peart. Sweat and Barnett are second and third on the team in sacks this year with 3.0 and 2.5, respectively. They have a chance to get after Daniel Jones.

Meanwhile, Brandon Graham is having a great season on the other side. The 10-year veteran through six games has 5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss and 9 QB hits. He has at least one QB hit in every game this season. Graham will be facing Cameron Fleming this week.

Travis Fulgham vs. James Bradberry

It’s pretty clear that Fulgham is not a fluke. Over the last three weeks, he has 18 catches for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. In those three weeks, Fulgham ranks 11th in the NFL in catches, fifth in yards and second in touchdowns. He’s been very good.

And after he had success last week against the Ravens — 6 catches, 75 yards, 1 touchdown — against some really good corners, he made believers out of even more folks.

On Sunday, Fulgham lined up mostly on the right side of the field, which is a natural matchup against Bradberry who has played on the defensive left more this season.

He’ll face a good corner again this week in James Bradberry, who was a big free agent acquisition this offseason. Bradberry signed a three-year, $45 million contract and has lived up to it so far. Through six games, Bradberry has two interceptions and 10 pass-breakups. ProFootballFocus ranks him as the fifth-best cornerback in the NFL. And Bradberry is 6-1, 212 pounds, so it’s not like Fulgham will be able to bully him either.

Evan Engram and Devonta Freeman vs. Eagles’ linebackers

Every time an opposing offense prepares to face the Eagles, you can bet they’re looking for ways to exploit their linebackers. It’s the weakest position on the entire Eagles’ roster.

But without Saquon Barkley, the Giants aren’t very equipped to do that on Thursday. Their best chances to do it are with Engram and Freeman.

Let’s start with Engram. It once seemed like he was destined to become a great player but injuries the last couple years have really slowed him down. This season, he has played all six games but has just 20 catches for 177 yards and no touchdowns. Engram is still a good player, though, so expect to see the Giants try to utilize this matchup. The Eagles haven’t been very good against opposing tight ends, giving up 37 catches for 377 yards and 6 touchdowns this year. In fact, they’re one of the worst teams in the league against tight ends.

 

Then there’s Freeman, whom the Eagles had interest in before Barkley got hurt and the Giants signed him. He’s been OK but he isn’t Barkley and he isn’t even the best version of Freeman. He has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in four games with the G-Men and has just seven caches for 58 yards.

Eagles iOL vs. Giants iDL

The Eagles thought they were going to have the best right guard in football this season but on Sunday they ended up with the worst right guard in football. The drop-off from Brandon Brooks all the way down to Jamon Brown is about as big as it gets.

This week, Doug Pederson said the Eagles have options at right guard but let’s be honest: None of them are particularly good. With concerns at right guard and right tackle without knowing Lane Johnson’s status, this is a matchup to watch.

No, maybe Leonard Williams isn’t as good as he once was with the Jets, when he was a Pro Bowler in 2016 but he’s still a good player and leads the Giants with three sacks this season. And the Giants also have Dalvin Tomlinson inside. Tomlinson is a 318-pound nose tackle who doesn’t pile up stats but is a good player. PFF ranks him as the 14th best interior DL in the NFL.