Darryl Tapp referred to Brandon Graham as his "little brother" when he talked about what it meant to lose the rookie first-round pick for the remainder of the 2010 season.
But Tapp and the rest of the defensive ends understand that each player's snap count will likely be increased in the weeks to come. And if the Eagles want to capitalize on their 5-1 post-bye record, the defensive ends will have to help win the battle in the trenches beginning with this Sunday's showdown for first place in the NFC East against the Giants.
"You always want to be in that situation where you can be called upon, you can be trusted out there on the field," Tapp said. "I'm going to continue to prepare each week like I have been doing and we'll see how it plays out."
Tapp was acquired from the Seahawks in the offseason. The 270-pound Tapp has the ideal size to help set the edge against the run. For the year, Tapp has 22 tackles, 3.0 sacks and a team-high three fumble recoveries. In the Week 11 matchup with the Giants, running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 39 yards on the ground.
However, there have been changes since that last meeting. Bradshaw's propensity for putting the ball on the ground - he's lost five fumbles this season - made head coach Tom Coughlin switch to Jacobs as the primary back. The Giants are 3-0 since the loss to the Eagles and Jacobs and Bradshaw have combined for three individual 100-yard rushing performances and a total of six rushing touchdowns. Last week alone, Jacobs and Bradshaw each had 100-yard rushing games and scored a touchdown as well.
Juqua Parker, who regained the starting left defensive end job from Graham earlier this season, loves to play against the physical Giants team.
"We know they're going to try and run the ball down our throat. We just have to stop it," Parker said. "I like the physical game. I like when we're playing against a team that's going to run the ball downhill, not going to try and trick you. We know Brandon. You can't let him get started. Once you let him get started, that's when he's at his best. You just have to stop them from getting started. Stop him at the point of attack."
As talented as Jacobs and Bradshaw are, the Giants offensive line has been able to produce as a collective unit despite the absence of key players throughout the season. Left tackle David Diehl and center Shaun O'Hara have missed 13 games combined due to injury. Diehl returned last week against the Vikings and O'Hara could be back this Sunday. Both players were absent from the first Eagles-Giants showdown, but the Giants were still able to end the Eagles' streak of 28 straight games with at least one sack. In fact, quarterback Eli Manning is the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL with 13. He's been taken down just twice in the last seven games.
"Really? That's impressive," Tapp said. "They work well together. They're a veteran group. They're interchangeable at every position. They know what each other's strengths and weaknesses are, so they can compensate for that. They're a great unit."
It remains to be seen whether Graham's spot in the gameday rotation will be replaced by rookie Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, newly signed veteran Derrick Burgess or both. But no matter what, the Eagles have to contain the run game and provide some pressure on Manning, who does lead the league with 19 picks.
"You just have to pick up the slack," Tapp said. "Everyone has to pick up the slack."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 11:00 a.m., December 16