Former Giant knows Eagles have good shot at beating Patriots

Former Giant knows Eagles have good shot at beating Patriots

ST. PAUL, Minn. — During the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, the Patriots have been beaten twice in Super Bowls.

And the Eagles are pretty similar to the teams who took them down. 

Just ask a guy who was on both.

"Yeah, definitely," said former Giants defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora as he wandered around the floor at Xcel Energy Center during media night.  

"They have an outstanding pass rush and a plethora of pass rushes they can throw at a quarterback. If anybody has a good chance of doing it, it's going to be Philadelphia because of the players they have on the defensive line."

Umenyiora played in Super Bowl XLII when the Giants beat the Patriots, 17-14, in 2008 and he played in Super Bowl XLVI when the Giants beat the Patriots, 21-17. On Monday night, he approached Belichick while the coach was on the podium, introduced himself and shook his hand. 

Umenyiora wasn't wearing the two Super Bowl rings he won against him. 

The Giants sacked Brady a total of seven times in those two games and the pressure they got on the future Hall of Fame quarterback is looked back upon as one of the key reasons they were able to win those games. 

"You gotta be able to get to the quarterback without blitzing too many times," said Umenyiora, nearly describing Jim Schwartz's defensive philosophy. "I think Philadelphia has the guys to be able to do that."

In those two Super Bowls, the Giants' strength on defense was their line and they forced Brady into a lot of missed passes. He completed 56 of 89 passes (62.9 percent) during those two games. 

Umenyiora said the Giants never saw Brady get frustrated or flustered, but they did see him miss some passes he normally would make. He thinks that was a product of the Giants' pass rush. 

"We could tell he wasn't really in the same groove he usually is," Umenyiora said. 

The Eagles' sack numbers weren't overwhelming this season, but they have a couple Pro Bowl-caliber players up front and boast a rotation that goes eight or nine deep. In addition to having the best run defense in the NFL in 2017, they also became a nightmare for opposing defenses. 

Now 36, Umenyiora watched the Eagles all season and came away impressed with that front four and its pass rush. 

"Well, obviously Fletcher Cox is outstanding on the inside, but Chris Long, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, those pass rushers they have on the outside are bringing it every single play," he said. "They're quick, they're explosive, they're fast. They have a very good front seven."

When asked if he thinks the Eagles' pass rush will be the key in the game for them on Sunday, Umenyiora said it probably would. But then he turned around, looked at Brady, who was still surrounded by a crowd of media members about 10 deep, and shook his head. With that guy, Umenyiora finished, anything is possible. 

Still, he likes the Eagles and isn't ruling them out in Super Bowl LII like many already have. 

"Yeah, absolutely [the Eagles] have a chance," Umenyiora said. "They can actually win this game. It's going to be tough. It's going to be the hardest fight of their lives. But they have a chance for sure." 

Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

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Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is concerned enough about the NFL's new rule banning tacklers from lowering their head to initiate contact that he held a defensive meeting Monday specifically so his guys could study film of exactly how the league is calling the new rule.

Through two preseason weekends, the Eagles have been cited a league-high five times for personal fouls for lowering the head.

“The instructions we’ve given guys is, try not to lower your head and try to take your head out of it, and I think our guys are trying to do that,” Schwartz said.

“I can confidently say we don’t have any guys that are trying to play outside the bounds. We don’t have any guys that are head hunting, that are being selfish. They’re trying to play within the rules.

“I think you can see Nigel (Bradham’s) play, he’s trying to get his head out. I think even Rodney (McLeod’s) play, he’s trying to get his head across and get it out. The problem is they’re dealing with world-class athletes who are moving targets. A little bit easier said than done. 

“And those fouls have hurt us in those first couple preseason games and we’ve got to get to a point where they don’t hurt us in the regular season.”

Cornerback Sidney Jones was called for a lowering-the-head penalty on Steelers receiver Damoun Patterson in the preseason opener, and tight end Richard Rodgers was also cited in the opener for an illegal hit on Justin Thomas on a punt return.

On Thursday night, McLeod was called for a hit on running back James White, Bradham was cited for a hit on receiver Julian Edelman and safety Jeremy Reaves was penalized for a hit on running back Mike Gillislee.

“It’s going to be very important work over the next couple weeks, not just learning from our own mistakes but learning from other teams,” Schwartz said.

“There’s some other good feedback. We get clips from the league that show not just penalties that were called but penalties that should have been called. So there is a learning process.”

Eagles veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said it’s going to be tough to eliminate these penalties simply because the game moves so fast, and even if your intention is to use perfect form tackling, it doesn’t always end up that way.

“It’s tough because sometimes the runner’s ducking his head just as much as you’re ducking,” he said. “But they just don’t want to see the crown of your head hitting his crown or hitting his facemask.

“Just really try to keep your eyes up. You’re going to get ran over sometimes. Hey, you’re going to get ran over. But some people do like to use the crown of their head and it’s just to protect them because you don’t want to be paralyzed from hitting someone the wrong way. 

"So I try to keep my face up and hit with my facemask and this will force people to start doing stuff like that.”

One challenge Schwartz is getting his guys to play hard, fast and aggressive without thinking about how they’re tackling.

“You want to play fast,” he said. “You want to play confidently on the field. But any time there’s something new, there is going to be an adjustment. 

“It’s a difficult thing. We're trying our best to work through it, but it does add a layer of difficulty to what we're trying to do.”

According to penalty stats on NFLgsis, an official league statistical web site, there have been 48 lowering-the-head penalties called in 32 preseason games or 1½ per game.

Eight of the 32 teams haven’t been cited at all. The Eagles and Titans have been called a league-high five times each.

“It’s real sensitive right now, but as professionals, we’re going to adjust,” Graham said.

“They want to make it an emphasis in preseason, and I’m happy it didn’t cost us a real game. We’ve just got to continue to keep our head out of things and I think we’ll make that adjustment."

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: Bet your money Wentz starts vs Falcons

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Eagle Eye: Bet your money Wentz starts vs Falcons

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Carson Wentz participating in 11-on-11's. Why Barrett would put money on him starting the regular season opener. Brandon Graham is back at practice and Gunner got a chance to talk to him recently. Also, the Redskins sign Adrian Peterson and the guys think it's a great fit for the veteran running back.

1:00 - Gunner and Barrett's weekend update.
4:30 - Carson Wentz is back on 11-on-11's. Why it's a significant step.
9:30 - Brandon Graham is back practicing. Gunner had a chance to talk with him.
13:00 - Adrian Peterson signs with the Redskins.

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