There are no secrets here. That's the beauty -- and the challenge -- of playing a team as familiar as the New York Giants. The Eagles know what to expect when they play the Giants -- a tough, physical game against a disciplined and well-coached football team. Isn't the best way to beat New York to punch the Giants in the mouth and win the war at the line of scrimmage?
Sure is. That is where it begins when the Eagles and Giants meet: The line of scrimmage holds all the keys. And there isn't a group that deserves more credit for the rise of this offense than the line. It began the season with major, major question marks. The first few games were rocky, to be generous. But hard work and good coaching and attention to detail from a talented group of players allowed the line to get better and better, and gave Michael Vick an opportunity to run one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
The improvement of left tackle Jason Peters, who has to be playing as well as anybody at his position in the league, has keyed the improvement. Equal credit has to go to the rest of the group -- left guard Todd Herremans has been outstanding, center Mike McGlynn has handled the mental game and the physical challenges so very well, Max Jean-Gilles has improved tremendously at right guard and Winston Justice -- last week, King Dunlap -- has been very, very solid at right tackle.
Collectively, the offensive line has been as good as any in recent Eagles seasons, especially in the running game. The inside zone blocking scheme has worked very well, has given running back LeSean McCoy some room to maneuver and has added a legitimacy to this group game. The Eagles have it going on with the offense, and now comes their most difficult test against the best front seven in the NFL.
New York attacked Vick the first time around, using safety Antrel Rolle as a blitzer, cutting off the edge and forcing Vick to win the battle from the pocket. The Eagles moved the ball and had a lot of scoring chances, but they were just 2 for 5 in the red zone and had to come back to beat the Giants late in the game.
We'll see how much the teams have done their homework since then. How much will the Eagles change their approach? How about the Giants? The in-game adjustments are going to be crucial, of course, and the Eagles will have to exercise a lot of patience on the road against such a stacked defense.
But if the line does its job and picks up everything the Giants throw at them, the offense is going to thrive. That is just a basic law of the game. The line holds the key here, and this is very much a perspective of just how far Juan Castillo's crew has come.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT
Steve Smith has been placed on Injured Reserve, which is a blow to New York's offense. But if Eli Manning has time, it won't matter which receivers line up for New York. So as much as the offensive line has to do the job, the defensive line must improve its pressure with the four-man rush. I don't think it is a lock that Derrick Burgess plays in this game after so little practice time, but we will see on Sunday morning. Trent Cole has to play with great energy and productivity, Juqua Parker has to rush the quarterback and hold the edge against the run and Darryl Tapp must be versatile and make plays. Inside, Trevor Laws has to be a very, very good tackle for some pass-rush pressure.
- What to expect from Jamar Chaney on Sunday? I don't know. He is a young player, an eager learner and a talented player. How well he studies and prepares will dictate to a very high degree how effective he will be on Sunday.
- Asante Samuel went through a full practice on Wednesday, a great piece of news. But the true test comes on Thursday and Friday when we see how Samuel's knee reacts to the extended work on turf. Keep your fingers crossed.
- My image of the playing surface at the new Meadowlands is of a slick artificial surface. Is there a way to slow the Eagles down on this kind of field? Let's hope not.
- My sense with DeSean Jackson is that he is going to play, and the reason I say that is that I simply can't imagine Jackson missing a game of this magnitude. He loves the game too much.
- Dimitri Patterson, four interceptions. Did anybody think that would be the case? You are lying if you said yes.
- It appears that Jorrick Calvin will be the kickoff return man against the Giants, and he is going to have some incredible motivation given the tough week he has had since the game at Dallas. Calvin has to remember that ball security is most important. I just have this vision of Calvin struggling for the extra yards and the Giants coming to knock the ball out of his hands.