The New York Giants defensive line has been a vaunted unit for years and the calling card of a prideful team that has won two of the past six Super Bowls by, in no small part, making life in the pocket miserable for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The front four has terrorized offensive lines, applied hellacious pressure to disrupt opposing offenses and sacked quarterbacks with aplomb. From Lawrence Taylor to Michael Strahan to Justin Tuck to Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have been blessed with at least one premier pass rusher at a time for over 30 years. Thus far in 2013, however, that once-feared pass rush has been a toothless shell of what everyone has come to know and expect from the Giants, despite still boasting Tuck and Pierre-Paul.
The Giants' 0-4 start to the season is shocking enough, but to look at the statistics and see them tied for last in the NFL in sacks, with four, is even more jarring. This is a defense that used to be capable of putting up four sacks in a single quarter. That pass-rushing impotence goes a long way in explaining why the defense ranks last in points allowed per game (36.5), as well. Quarterbacks have simply been able to sit back in a clean pocket, go through their progressions and shred the secondary. Nevertheless, Eagles players on offense know better than to overlook the Giants front four just because it has struggled to this point, and they do not expect to have an easy game.
"We know they have a good pass rush," quarterback Michael Vick said. "They do a lot of good things up front, play a lot of games. It's going to be up to us to try to counter that and do a good job of blocking and maintaining the integrity of the pocket."
"They have the ability in their front four," guard Todd Herremans said. "Actually they've got five guys that can easily get in there and rush the passer. We're expecting anything, prepare for the worst, hope for the best."
"I think they're very good," tight end Brent Celek said. "Sometimes things happen and you're not able to get to the quarterback as much, but those guys are good. They're good players. You have to give them credit."
In addition to Tuck and Pierre-Paul, the Giants defensive line includes Mathias Kiwanuka, Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, rookie Damontre Moore and former Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. Jenkins (six total tackles, one forced fumble) has started each of the four games and just returned to practice Thursday, though as a limited participant, after sitting out due to right knee and Achilles injuries. Patterson, on the other hand, has played fewer than 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps but been an active producer in logging 10 total tackles. He figures to see an increase in playing time if Jenkins is out.
"I'm sure it'll be interesting," Herremans said of playing against Patterson, with whom he entered the NFL as part of the Eagles' 2005 draft class. "Mike and I know each other very well. We know each other's games very well. I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure he is too, but at the end of the day he's wearing blue and I'm wearing green."
In what is one of the NFL's most heated and eventful rivalries, another layer of drama is added this week since both the Eagles and Giants desperately need to win to keep their respective seasons afloat. Regardless of how each team has looked and whatever troubles they have had, you have to throw the records out the window, as both are likely to treat this as a type of one-game, do-or-die playoff. For the Eagles, they cannot discount a Giants pass rush that is liable to find its mojo at any time and revert back to its havoc-wreaking days.
"It's going to be a fun game," Celek said. "They're always going to be ready, it doesn't matter what their record is or what our record is. It's going to be a tough game, so we all have to be ready. … All bets are off, especially when they're playing us. You know what type of game this is, they're going to be ready."
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