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Fan-Demonium: A Measuring Stick

Posted Sep 29, 2012

Fan-Demonium

The Eagles are off to a 2-1 start that has people not quite sure what to feel about the team. Sloppy play has been a major issue. That's discouraging. Players did come through in the clutch to win the first two games. That's encouraging. Do you put more weight on the sloppy wins or the bad loss last week in Arizona? People will argue about how this team should be judged.

Sunday night the Eagles have a chance to answer a lot of key questions. They play in the biggest game of the year when they host the Giants. This is the first division game of 2012 and it comes against the defending Super Bowl champs. I hate writing that as much as you hate reading it, but it is unfortunately the truth. The Giants are 2-1 and look like the best team in the NFC East right now.

This won't be a defining game. It is too early for that. I do think it can be a measuring stick game. The Eagles need to show they can bounce back from the debacle in the desert. The offense must show that it can move the ball and score points on a team with a good pass rush. I think it is also important to win at home. Last year, the Eagles were just 3-5 at Lincoln Financial Field. The wins weren't very impressive. Beating the Ravens and Giants in the first two home games would be a great sign.

So what do the Eagles need to do to win the game?

Let's start with the offense. The first concern in any Eagles-Giants game is protection. Demetress Bell will battle Jason Pierre-Paul quite a bit. Bell can block him some of the time, but will need help. The Eagles will use tight ends and running backs to help him. The coaches will also use plays to help. Don't be surprised to see the ghost reverse. This is when DeSean Jackson runs behind the offense as if he's going to get the ball on a reverse. The line doesn't block the backside defensive end, but the end can't chase the running back because he's focused on Jackson and trying to see if he got the ball. The Eagles could use misdirection plays as well. All of this will force Pierre-Paul to think before he attacks. With a player like him, anything you can do to slow him down is good.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Dallas Reynolds will get his second start of the season (and his career). I think he'll be fine on run plays. Pass protection will be a mixed bag. I think he'll do a solid job against the Giants’ base defense. The potential problems come in known passing situations. The Giants like to put Pierre-Paul and/or Justin Tuck on the inside as pass rushers. They have the quickness and agility to give Reynolds some problems. The other worry is blitzes that attack the A-gap. The Cardinals had some success with this, especially late in the game. Reynolds and the coaches have now had a week to study this and figure out some ways to handle the situation.

We all know how Andy Reid loves to attack defenses with the passing game, but he does run a balanced offense against the Giants. Last year in the two games, Reid and Marty Mornhinweg called 60 run plays. Giving the ball to LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown will help the offensive line. It will also force the Giants to focus on stopping the run. That will open things up down the field.

The Giants secondary is banged up. You can bet Reid and Mornhinweg will go after them. The question is how to do it. It won't surprise me to see the coaches come out throwing short passes. That would negate the pass rush and help the offense get in a rhythm. It would put pressure on defensive backs to make tackles. Jeremy Maclin is back this week and he and Jackson are dangerous with the ball after a catch. The Eagles will throw down the field, but those plays need to be blocked well up front so that Michael Vick has time to get the ball to his guys.

Vick is a big key to the game. He must stop turning the ball over. The interceptions stopped last week, which was good, but then he fumbled the ball twice. You can't keep turning the ball over and expect to win. Vick needs to make good decisions. Read the defense and get the ball to the right receiver. Take off and run at times. Keep the Giants off-balance.

The Eagles defense shut down the Giants last year in the November meeting that they won. Eli Manning and company were held to 10 points. Another performance like that would be huge. I do think the Eagles match up well with the Giants. That is aided by the fact that receiver Hakeem Nicks is out due to injury. He is the Giants’ best receiver. Victor Cruz is still very dangerous, but his numbers are down from last year. Cruz only has one touchdown so far this year. I hope Juan Castillo puts Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Cruz any time he's outside. In the slot, Brandon Boykin has the speed to stick with Cruz. This should be a much better situation than last year. Cruz lit up the Eagles with 238 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. Take him away and that puts pressure on Ramses Barden and rookie Rueben Randle.

The Giants are running the ball better this season. Last year, they were last in the league. Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown are the key guys. Rookie David Wilson is on the bench due to a fumble in the season opener. All three are very talented. The Eagles have had some success in shutting down the Giants rushing attack in recent years. The main reason is the play of the defensive line. They've been able to get penetration and be disruptive. They'll need to do that again.

Of course, the defensive line will also need to come up big with the pass rush. Jason Babin had a couple of sacks against the Giants last year. He's playing lights out in 2012. Babin is still a force off the edge, but he is also playing the run well. He's become a complete defensive end. I'm curious to see how the defensive tackles play. Fletcher Cox was terrific in the first two games, but migraines slowed him down last week. Cedric Thornton played the best game of his young career in Arizona. If both guys can play well and Derek Landri and Cullen Jenkins play like they always do, the Eagles can handle the Giants up front. This is a game where neither offensive line is in great shape. Manning is also a quarterback who wants to throw downfield and that means he'll hold onto the ball on some plays. The line needs to hit him and create some turnovers. When the Giants won last year, they didn't have any turnovers. When the Eagles won, they came up with two takeaways, including a fumble that sealed the win.

I won't lie to you. I'm nervous as heck about this game. The Eagles need this win. The offensive line has me a bit nervous. Vick has me a bit nervous. I'm optimistic because I think the coaches will have a better gameplan this week. There is also the fact that Reid has a good record against the Giants. The Eagles have won seven of eight against the Giants. Something is working. Let's hope Reid has that magic working on Sunday night and the Eagles come through with a big win.

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