In a nutshell for an NFL defense, you know to prepare for anything and everything from an opposing offense. That's the rule of thumb on a normal week, and this is anything but a normal week for the Eagles or, for that matter, Sunday's opponent, the New York Giants.
One day after losing to Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football, the Giants fired Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett. Senior Offensive Assistant Coach Freddie Kitchens is a candidate to takeover the playcalling duties on Sunday for the Giants, a wrinkle the Eagles are well aware of as they prepare for the NFC East game at MetLife Stadium.
"You have to go back and look at some things that Coach Kitchens did at Cleveland and some of those things like that," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "Of course, you look for every advantage, every edge, some of the tendency things. You got to go back and look at what they had. I've said this before in here, it's a different playcaller. There's going to be different looks. There's going to be different things that he does, that Coach Garrett didn't do or vice versa. We've just got to be ready for everything. So, when you don't know exactly what you're going to get, you got to play your rules and you got to play your rules on each individual defense that you get."
It's a short week for everybody, and it's especially short for the Giants, who returned to New Jersey in the early-morning hours on Tuesday and started putting together their game plan. How much can they really change with only a couple of days of practice before Sunday's game? We'll find out when the game begins, but the Eagles' defense – one that has taken significant steps forward in the last month – understands how it works.
They're going to be ready for the looks they've seen from the Giants studying the team's 2021 offensive performance, and they're going to have safeguards in place for unscouted looks. And the reality is, there are unscouted looks in every game, so this isn't anything entirely new.
"It caught everyone off guard, unexpected change, but all we have to go over is the film that they presented," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Within any game, teams are going to run things that they might not necessarily show on film or things that have worked against you, so we have to be able to adjust and adapt. At the end of the day, all we can do is lock in on what they've shown thus far and try to do our best job and see what they come out with on Sunday."
The Eagles will be without linebacker Davion Taylor, who suffered a knee injury in Sunday's win over New Orleans, underwent surgery earlier in the week, and was placed on Injured Reserve on Wednesday. Sirianni said there is no timetable for Taylor's return. In the meantime, the Eagles will turn to Alex Singleton, who started most of the season prior to Taylor emerging, second-year man Shaun Bradley, and rookie Patrick Johnson.
In the world of next-man-up-mentality, Singleton has a master's degree. He's ready for whatever – always.
"For most of my career, I've had to do whatever I can and not really worry about what's going on around and when you get to play, do whatever you can. That's the mindset I've always taken to help us win games and make myself better if anything were to happen, I'd be ready to step up and be ready to play," Singleton said. "I took a long time to get here and a long time to learn how to be a pro and do all those things, so to let something I can't control control that, I would probably be doing the biggest detriment to my career."
New York hasn't found its groove offensively, averaging just 18 points per game in an injury-plagued season, but the ability is there. The Eagles are well aware of quarterback Daniel Jones and his skills as a runner on the edge, his big arm in the pocket, and his creativity when the pocket collapses. Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton are healthy and together now, and they're a scary combination, even more dangerous with the emergence of rookie No. 1 draft pick Kadarius Toney (who missed Wednesday's practice due to injury). Tight end Evan Engram is a big-play maker and extremely athletic. Running back Saquon Barkley is on the field and healthy and is as dynamic as any player in the league when he's good to go.
So, no matter what the numbers say about the Giants' offense, the truth is the Eagles have their hands full – and they know it.
"They have a bunch of dynamic playmakers," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "The rookie (Toney) is special, I think. Daniel Jones, I've seen him for a couple of years. He's really good with his feet and with his arm. He has a really, really strong arm. He's a guy who makes plays out of the pocket. Obviously, we've seen him with some really good QB runs in the past and they play really well together. We'll be ready for it."
Toney has already thrown three passes this season with one completion, and the Giants have shown a willingness to call a gadget play or two or three during the course of a game. They've had injuries and inconsistency along the offensive line, but 2020 first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas is healthy and back in the lineup at left tackle, so New York thinks it is ready to play its best offense of the year with the stretch run here.
For the Eagles, they have to trust what they see and they have to trust coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who has mixed in pressures with success and put his players in the right position to play takeaway defense – the Eagles have 12 forced turnovers in the last nine games, three against New Orleans on Sunday, and they've scored touchdowns off of takeaways in three of the last four games, all victories.
"The biggest thing is making it about us," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Making sure whatever JG calls we're doing our job and everyone is accountable. Will they have some wrinkles? I'm sure they will. It's our job to go out and execute the calls and make the defense work."