Saquon Barkley

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Giants in Week 17

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Giants in Week 17

The Eagles (8-7) are coming off a big 17-9 win over the Cowboys and will face the Giants (4-11) coming off a shootout overtime win over the Redskins. 

With a win, the Eagles would clinch the NFC East. 

Let’s get to the matchups: 

Daniel Jones vs. Jim Schwartz 

When these two teams played in Week 14, the Eagles faced Eli Manning. But now Jones is healthy again and is coming off the best game of his young career. Against the Redskins, Jones completed 28 of 42 passes for 352 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was great. 

“Like a lot of rookie players he has his ups and downs, but he's playing his best late in the season,” Jim Schwartz said. “I don't know if it had anything to do with sort of — a lot of times rookies can get in there and take a step back. He took a step back for a couple weeks, watched; sometimes that benefits guys.”

Since taking over as defensive coordinator in Philly, Schwartz is 5-1 against starting rookie quarterbacks (Dak Prescott x2, C.J. Bethard, Mitchell Trubisky, Luke Falk, Dwayne Haskins). The only loss came to Prescott back in 2016. But Haskins was pretty good against the Eagles a couple weeks ago, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. 

Saquon Barkley vs. Eagles’ linebackers 

Schwartz said he thought Barkley looked like he was 100 percent in the last meeting between these two teams, but it didn’t look like it to me. But Barkley definitely looked healthy against Washington last week. 

In that game, he rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown and added another 90 and another touchdown as a receiver. That was his second straight game going over 100 rushing yards. 

The Eagles finally handled Ezekiel Elliott last week, but now they face another tough challenge. Tackling will be key. 

“He is a guy you always need to know where he is, you need to account for him both in the run game and pass game,” Schwartz said. “And in the run game, you have to account for all of your gaps. He is a guy that can spin. He is a really good spin move guy and can break contain, so it's not just your interior guys. Your edges have to hold up well against him.”

Darius Slayton vs. Eagles’ corners 

In the last meeting between these two teams, Slayton went off for five catches for 154 yards. Both of his big plays came on Ronald Darby’s side in that game. Darby is done for the year after being placed on IR earlier this week. So expect Slayton to work against Jalen Mills or Rasul Douglas, two guys who aren’t known for their speed. 

Both of Slayton’s touchdown catches in that game went for 35-plus yards. On the season, the Eagles have given up 17 pass plays of 35-plus. Just five teams have given up more and the top number in the league is 20. 

Golden Tate vs. Avonte Maddox 

The Eagles held Tate in check a few weeks ago, when he had just one catch for 11 yards. But he’s now coming off a 96-yard game against Washington. And even though he wasn’t great against Miami in the previous week, he did have a 51-yard touchdown catch. He’s 31 but Tate can still hurt a defense. 

I thought Maddox had what was arguably his best game of the season last week against the Cowboys. Cre’Von LeBlanc didn’t play in that game so it looks like this is Maddox’s role going forward. This will be an important matchup to watch against a team that certainly has its fair share of offensive weapons. 

Carson Wentz vs. Giants' pass defense 

This has been a very good month for Carson Wentz. In December (including the first Giants game), Wentz has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,220 yards, 9 touchdowns and one interception. He has a rating of 101.7 in the month. 

Among players with at least 50 passing attempts this month, Wentz ranks fifth in passer rating behind Drew Brees, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s also fourth in passing yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns. For a guy who hasn’t been able to play much in the last couple Decembers, Wentz has been very good this month. 

The Giants have given up 263.1 passing yards per game this season, which ranks them 26th in the NFL. The Giants have a pretty stout front that has allowed just 3.9 yards per carry, but they’re susceptible to the passing game. 



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Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders: How bitter rivals became best friends at Penn State

Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders: How bitter rivals became best friends at Penn State

Two of the most dynamic young running backs in the NFL will be on display at the Linc Monday night.

One had the third-most yards from scrimmage ever by a rookie last year. The other is now a rookie and actually averaging more yards per touch.

They’re both 22, both from Pennsylvania, both dynamic runners and receivers, and both went to Penn State.

They’re fierce competitors. And they’re best friends.

Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders won’t be playing against each other Monday night, but you better believe they’ll be measuring themselves against each other.

That's how it's always been.

Barkley arrived at State College in the fall of 2015 and by the time Sanders arrived a year later, Barkley already had a firm grip on the starting running back position.

For two years, Sanders sat and waited.

He didn’t play until last year, when Barkley was with the Giants. But the respect they developed for each other as they competed became the basis of their friendship.

I wasn’t going to allow a five-star recruit to come in and take my job,” Barkley said from East Rutherford, New Jersey, earlier this week. “I knew they obviously envisioned a role for him, so we just competed the whole time but in a friendly way. Even though there was competition to be that starting back, it was always out of love, and I think just the respect we had for each others’ talents is what made our friendship grow so much stronger.

Barkley ran for nearly 1,100 yards as a freshman, then 1,500 yards as a soph and nearly 1,300 yards as a junior before declaring for the draft and going to the Giants with the second pick.

Sanders, buried behind Barkley, got just 25 carries as a freshman and 31 as a sophomore.

When he first got to campus, little things like drills we would do, 7-on-7s, his ability to catch the ball, you knew from the get-go he was going to be a tremendous player,” Barkley said. “It didn’t go how he wanted it to go. He probably wanted more reps or more carries while we were there at Penn State. But he was the same guy. He was a hard worker, he didn’t let that impact him. He always had that same work ethic and that same mentality that he wanted to be a lead back in college football one day, and he turned out to be one.

Sanders averaged less than three touches per game as a freshman and sophomore.

Barkley never left the field, and Sanders barely got on it.

Every single day [in college] I’m bringing out the best out of him, he’s bringing the best out of me,” Sanders said. “Drills, team practices, running certain plays, just seeing what he sees and what I see, just seeing the difference, stuff like that. We’d always do stuff after practice too, so it was always me and him, locked in, just trying to get better. … Everything didn’t go how I expected. It just didn’t go my way, but that didn’t change the way I felt about him or anything. Unbelievable player. Everybody knows that, the whole world knows that, nothing but respect for him. The relationship is really good.

Barkley told the story about his last home game in college. This was November of 2017, Penn State vs. Nebraska at Beaver Stadium.

That whole week, I was hurt with a back injury and I remember telling people, ‘I can’t not play, because if I don’t play the world’s going to see what this guy can do already and it’s not my time yet to leave.’ So that was in the back of my mind, finish the season out strong and let him do his thing next year.

Sanders laughs when he's asked about that game. Everybody on the outside thought this would finally be his chance to shine. Sanders knew better.

The whole week, he didn’t practice, he was in the training room the whole week, and everyone’s getting me ready like I’ll be starting. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell my family, because you never know. We’ve got Superman over there. He gets the start and then he takes one 60 yards (65 yards on the first play of the game). I’m like, ‘His back’s fine.’

With Barkley finally gone last fall, Sanders ran for 1,274 yards, and the Eagles drafted him in the second round.

Barkley averaged 22 touches per game as a rookie. Sanders is averaging about 12. So the numbers are difficult to compare. 

One thing is clear. They can both play.

The football world will see that Monday night.

It’s going to be real special,” Sanders said. “I remember talking about this even before the season started, when we were guessing where I would end up. I told him if I’m with the Eagles, we’d get to see each other twice a year. But really at the end of the day I’d be pretty selfish to tell you that I’m focused on Saquon. For real, for real, I’m really just focused on getting a W. We’ve got some stuff to handle. We’ve got to handle business. It’s going to be fun, but I’m mainly focused on something else.

The Giants have lost eight straight games and are playing out the string under head coach Pat Shurmur, the longtime Eagles assistant coach, who will likely be fired after the season.

The Eagles still have a fair chance to win the NFC East, but they’re 5-7 and have lost three straight.

Barkley vs. Sanders will be a fascinating side story to a game between two struggling teams.

I’m not too focused on out-rushing Miles. He’s one of my really good friends, I wish nothing but the best for him, just a healthy game, a healthy rest of the season and rest of his career. My main focus is going out there and trying to help my team win.

- Barkley

We’ve got to win these four games to get into the playoffs, and to be in the playoffs my rookie year would be pretty special, so that’s really all I’m focused on. But it’s definitely going to be fun playing against Saquon, don’t get me wrong.

- Sanders

A quick comparison:

• Sanders is actually averaging more yards per touch so far than Barkley did during his Rookie of the Year season — 5.9 to 5.8.

• Barkley had 911 yards from scrimmage on his first 147 touches. Sanders has 879 yards on his 147 touches.

• Barkley and Sanders rank first and fourth in most total yards by Penn State running backs as rookies. Here’s the all-time top five: Barkley (2,028), Curt Warner (1,774), Franco Harris (1,235), Sanders (879), Blair Thomas (824).

Barkley and Sanders are the only Penn State running backs drafted in the first two rounds since Larry Johnson in 2003, so Monday night’s game will be quite a showcase for a program not known for producing running backs.

When I got there my first year, going 7-6, and now being one of the top programs and having two running backs in the NFL playing on a Monday night from the same school just shows you where we’re going as a program,” Barkley said. “You can see last year’s Rookie of the Year and a guy who’s been playing at that caliber as a rookie this year over there at Philly and you can see where we came from and where it kind of started.

Barkley is signed through 2021 and Sanders through 2022, and both will probably be sticking around longer than that.

They’ve been ferocious rivals and the best of friends since they were teenagers, and they’re only getting started.

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5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Giants in NFL Week 14

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Giants in NFL Week 14

The Eagles (5-7) are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Dolphins and will host the Giants (2-10) on Monday Night Football at the Linc. 

The Giants haven’t won a game since Sept. 29, but the Eagles have lost three in a row. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Monday: 

Eli Manning vs. Jim Schwartz 

Rookie Daniel Jones has a high ankle sprain, so it sounds like the 38-year-old veteran will be starting on Monday night. The Giants’ offense will look different with Manning. Schwartz explained that the Giants have been using some zone read with Jones and they certainly won’t with Manning. We know the ball is going to come out of his hands quickly. 

“It's going to be important to cover quick and get to the quarterback quick and knock their timing off of their passing game when Eli is back there, because he's such a timing quarterback,” Schwartz said. 

Last season, Manning’s average time to throw was 2.65 seconds. This year, Jones’ average time to throw is 2.88 seconds. That’s a pretty big difference. 

Evan Engram vs. Malcolm Jenkins 

The Giants’ talented tight end hasn’t played since Nov. 4 because of a foot sprain but will likely return against the Eagles this weekend. In eight games this season, Engram has 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns. 

In two career games against the Eagles, Engram has 13 catches for 132 yards. 

The good news is that the Eagles have performed fairly well against tight ends this season. They’ve given up 50 passes, 533 yards and four touchdowns against opposing tight ends. Just eight teams have given up fewer yards to opposing tight ends. 

Saquon Barkley vs. Eagles’ linebackers 

It probably has something to do with the ankle injury he suffered earlier in the season, but Barkley hasn’t followed up his Pro Bowl rookie season with another big year. This year, in nine games, he has just 544 rushing yards and 291 receiving yards and just three total touchdowns after he had 15 last year. 

His rushing yards per attempt have dropped from 5.0 in 2018 to 4.0 this season. What’s even more noteworthy is that his average yards after contact per attempt have dropped from 2.8 to 1.9 this season. He hasn’t been the same. 

Still, Barkley was great against the Eagles last year: 

Week 6: 13 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD, 9 receptions, 99 yards

Week 12: 13 carries, 101 yards, 1 TD, 7 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD 

That’s 371 yards from scrimmage for Barkley against the Eagles last year. Just five players have ever had more yards from scrimmage against the Eagles in a single season: Tiki Barber, Emmitt Smith, Jim Brown (x2), Herschel Walker, Ezekiel Elliott. 

The Eagles need to be sure to slow down Barkley on Monday. 

Golden Tate vs. Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc

The former Eagles receiver is expected to return from a concussion to play in this game. Tate played the second half of the 2018 season with the Eagles last year and wasn’t very productive. Look at his numbers in 10 games with the Eagles (including playoffs) and his numbers in seven games with the Giants this year: 

2018 with Eagles: 10 games, 37 catches, 342 yards, two touchdowns 

2019 with Giants: 7 games, 36 catches, 450 yards, four touchdowns 

With an entire offseason, the Giants have been far more successful plugging Tate into their offense. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby really struggled against the Dolphins, so it covered up the fact that Maddox didn’t play very well either. We’ll see what the split at the nickel is this week, but Maddox or LeBlanc will need to cover Tate, who still gets most of his snaps in the slot. 

Carson Wentz vs. Giants’ pass defense 

I know they lost and I know the offense struggled to score in the second half in Miami, but Wentz had a pretty good game. He threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He had his only interception on the Hail Mary that he was forced to throw because the defense couldn’t stop the Dolphins at all. Before that Hail Mary, Wentz’s passer rating was over 100. 

The Giants are the eighth-worst passing defense in the league, giving up 258.6 passing yards per game. And you have to remember that they’ve lost six games by at least two touchdowns, so teams aren’t even trying to pass on them for whole games. Janoris Jenkins has recently voiced his frustration about not traveling. First-round pick DeAndre Baker hasn’t had a great rookie season and he’s been rotating in and out. 

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