8:20 PM EST, FOX/NFL Network – Line: Eagles -4, Over/Under: 44
A pair of struggling rivals who have been scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel meet in an attempt to build some momentum as the reeling Philadelphia Eagles play host to the New York Giants tonight from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If we all thought that last year’s NFC East was the pits, then this current incarnation of the division will leave you feeling nauseous, for it’s been six weeks into the 2020 campaign and none of it’s inhabitants can claim a record above .500. In fact, their combined ledger of 5-17 (.227) is by far and away the worst of the eight divisions that comprise the National Football League, with the Dallas Cowboys currently out in front on the strength of an unimpressive 2-3 mark thus far. However, that mediocrity only means that the rest of it’s residents are only a strong stretch of play from ascending to first place themselves, with just two games separating the summit from the cellar. This of course, brings us to the Giants (1-5, 3rd in NFC East), who began a brave new era of football with five consecutive losses, as their new Head Coach, Joe Judge, looks to rebuild a long decaying franchise; since going 11-5 in 2016, which has been their lone winning campaign since 2012, big blue has been one of the worst teams in the league, managing a miserable 12-36 (.250) mark over the following three years.
This is where New York hopes that Judge can make a difference, with the 38-year old looking to lay the groundwork to rebuild the Giants into a contender. Of course, Judge himself is just the latest Assistant Coach out of New England to get the nod for a top job, having spent the last eight seasons cutting his teeth with the Special Teams unit of the Patriots. Granted, Bill Belichick’s disciples haven’t produced the most inspiring of results as Head Coaches over the years, and Judge was viewed by many in the empire state as the most uninspiring of hires. With that said, no matter his pedigree it’s clear that this guy has his work cut out for him, with a team that appears to be at least a year away from truly competing, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Simply put, this has been one of the most toothless attacks in the NFL thus far, mustering a scant 16.8 points per game (31st Overall) on 291.6 total yards (31st Overall), including 203.8 yards through the air (30th Overall) on 5.2 net yards per attempt (29th Overall), and another 87.8 yards on the ground (30th Overall) on 4.0 yards per carry (23rd Overall). New Offensive Coordinator, Jason Garrett, has found little to work with, and that was BEFORE Pro-Bowl Tailback, Saquon Barkley (19 CAR, 34 YDS, 1.8 Y/A, 0 TD), tore the ACL in his right knee just two weeks into the campaign. Sophomore Quarterback, Daniel Jones (61.2%, 1,223 YDS, 5.16 NY/A, 3 TD, 6 INT, 52.4 QBR), whom the club surprisingly selected Sixth Overall in last year’s NFL Draft, has yet to take the requisite steps in his development, even regressing in some areas. The 23-year old has rarely been afforded the luxury of quality pass protection, suffering a staggering fifty-five sacks throughout the first nineteen games of his career, having already taken seventeen thus far, which translates to a worrisome percentage of 7.8%. Furthermore, he has been a veritable turnover machine, committing nine through the first six games, tossing six interceptions and losing another three fumbles, a number of which coming in the Red Zone, steering big blue to the second-worst percentage in that area of the field (25.0%). Defensively, the transition to New England’s hybrid 3/4 defensive front has been more successful than anything that the Offense has managed, with the Giants holding their own on this side of the football, yielding 25.3 points per game (16th Overall) on a respectable 342.0 total yards (12th Overall), including 235.5 yards against the pass (16th Overall) on 6.5 net yards per attempt (17th Overall), and another 106.5 yards versus the run (8th Overall) on 3.7 yards per carry (5th Overall). Though they’ve been able to produce their share of big plays (8 takeaways) and have stiffened up in the red zone (59.1%), this unit has had a really hard time of getting off the field, relinquishing a third down rate of 53.8% (31st Overall). At the end of the day, though they have shown the ability to execute this scheme, they still lack the necessary playmakers to truly excel at it. Veteran Cornerback, James Bradberry (20 TKL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT, 10 PD), has helped stabilize a position that was a major area of weakness last year, while the defensive front consisting of Dexter Lawrence (26 TKL, 2 TFL, 3 QBH, 1.0 SK), Dalvin Tomlinson (27 TKL, 5 TFL, 4 QBH, 1.0 SK, 2 PD), and Leonard Williams (24 TKL, 5 TFL, 6 QBH, 3.0 SK), has formed a staunch triumvirate in the trenches with the latter impressing since his midseason trade from their neighbors, the Jets, a year ago.
“We finally got our win… We’ve been working hard and finally got to see some of the fruits to our labor. It was obviously an ugly win though.”Leonard Williams, Giants Defensive Lineman following Sunday’s victory
When we last saw the Giants, they successfully managed to secure their first victory of the season after knocking on the door in successive weeks. A late interception on the goal line ended their comeback bid against the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago, while they simply didn’t have enough firepower to outrace the Cowboys in a 37-34 loss a week later. However, a matchup against the fading Washington Football Team proved to be the proper remedy for their woes, as Judge earned his first win as a Head Coach. The hosts would start quickly, taking a 10-0 lead as Jones threw a 23-yard dime to his receiver, Darius Slayton (25 REC, 406 YDS, 16.2 Y/R, 3 TD) to close out the first quarter, though the visitors would draw closer in the latter stages of the first half to cut the deficit to 13-10 at halftime. Following a scoreless third stanza, Washington would tie the affair with a field goal, but the Defense would eventually save the day as Linebacker, Kyler Fackrell (20 TKL, 6 TFL 5 QBH, 3.0 SK, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD), would strip sack Kyle Allen, with his rookie deputy, Tae Crowder (18 TKL, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 1 TD, 1 PD), scooping up the fumble and returning it forty-three yards for the score. Washington would again drive downfield, with Allen rifling a touchdown, though instead of kicking the extra point and going to overtime, Ron Rivera elected to go for the win, with New York frantically snuffing out the attempted two-point conversion, securing the 20-19 victory. While a win is indeed a win, it would be difficult for either Judge or Garrett to feel encouraged by the performance of their Offense, particularly their Quarterback. After scoring on their first three possessions, the Giants could only advance into Washington territory on one of the following five drives, with a 14-play, 73-yard series spoiled by another Jones interception in the red zone, his THIRD of the season (most in the NFL). The young signal-caller was 12-of-19 for 112 yards, a touchdown and an interception, with the Offense managing a meager 240 total yards on sixteen first downs.
Meanwhile, though the struggles of the Giants were totally expected, those of the Eagles (1-4-1, 2nd in NFC East) have been another story altogether, for by all intents and purposes this was a team that was expected to challenge for division supremacy in 2020. Without a proper Offseason of preparation, Philadelphia was the rational choice to repeat in the NFC East, having won the division in two of the previous three seasons. They were also it’s only resident not to undergo significant change in the Offseason, with their neighboring rivals each naming a new Head Coach. Now bringing in a new Coaching Staff and attempting to implement new schemes and strategies is difficult enough under normal circumstances, but in this unconventional year in which teams across the league were unable to conduct proper offseason workouts and were without the benefit of a Preseason, rational thought would lead us to place our trust in those few teams that have the luxury of organizational consistency, which is a group that Philly could count themselves among, though that hasn’t made the difference that we would have expected; with just one victory in their first six contests, these birds are off to their worst start since 1998, which was the season before Andy Reid arrived to lead the franchise to it’s successful run over the next fourteen years. So what in the hell has happened in the City of Brotherly Love, you ask?
Well, it may take more space than we have in this column to properly explain what has been ailing the Eagles this year, but we’ll certainly give it a try. Yet again, injuries have ravaged the roster, with the absence of a number of significant players causing crisis at a slew of positions. The Offensive Line has been decimated, with starting Left Tackle, Andre Dillard (Biceps), and Guard, Brandon Brooks (Achilles), on Injured Reserve, while Pro Bowl Right Tackle, Lane Johnson, has missed time with a sprained ankle. Furthermore, veteran Tackle, Jason Peters, alongside Center, Jason Kelce, have been slowed by various ailments, which as you can imagine has left their Franchise Quarterback, Carson Wentz (58.7%, 1,401 YDS, 4.71 NY/A, 8 TD, 9 INT, 48.2 QBR), running for his life. The 28-year old has been under siege throughout the first quarter of the campaign, suffering a league-high TWENTY-FIVE sacks thus far, which parlays to a rate of 9.6%, which would easily be the highest of his career. When Quarterbacks feel pressure, their decision-making can be altered dramatically, which seems to be the problem with Wentz, who has tossed NINE interceptions through six games. Last season, 72.3% of his passes were deemed to be on target with much of the criticism pointing to a Receiving Corps that was plagued by injuries and drops. With his protection largely strong, sustaining a sack on just 5.7% of his drop-backs, he was able to maintain efficient play, completing 63.9% of his attempts, while producing a 27/7 TD/INT Ratio. However, this season with his protection in shambles, only 59.3% of his passes have been on target, with the percentage of drops increasing from 4.7% to 4.9%, adding up to career-worsts in completion percentage (58.7%), interception percentage (3.8%), net yards per attempt (4.71), and QBR (48.2). With only two of the unit’s projected eleven starters remaining, Wentz has earned the admiration of his Head Coach, Doug Pederson, who played Quarterback for the club himself, and understands full well the difficulties of doing so under these conditions. Of course, his weapons haven’t helped much at all, with his cadre of pass-catchers proving uninspiring at best, and those are the ones who have managed to stay healthy. Veterans Alshon Jeffery (Foot) and DeSean Jackson (Hamstring) haven’t been able to stay on the field, with the former failing to play a single minute due to a lisfranc injury to his left foot, while the team’s first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jalen Reagor (5 REC, 96 YDS, 19.2 Y/R, 0 TD), was added to Injured Reserve with a torn UCL in his right thumb after just two games. Furthermore, Pro-Bowl Tight End, Zach Ertz (24 REC, 178 YDS, 7.4 Y/R, 1 TD), has plummeted down the depth chart following a contract dispute, and is now expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a high ankle sprain, while Sophomore Tailback, Miles Sanders (71 CAR, 431 YDS, 6.1 Y/A, 3 TD), is expected to miss tonight’s meeting with the Giants after suffering a knee injury in last weekend’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Defensively, Philadelphia has benefitted greatly in the Secondary following the acquisition of Pro-Bowl Cornerback, Darius Slay (30 TKL, 2 TFL, 3 PD), via trade in the Offseason, but the Linebacker Corps has been arguably the worst in the league, with that position group outmanned on a weekly basis. Their struggles have contributed to a run defense that has been a sieve, allowing 125.5 yards per game (21st Overall), which has been particularly apparent in the red zone, where they’ve allowed a touchdown on 72.7% of attempts (27th Overall).
“Carson is the type of guy that’s going to put the team on his back, and especially when we are faced with adversity. He wants the ball in his hands all the time… For this team to hang together on the sideline, to not point fingers, to battle, to be in this position with all the mistakes that were made in the first half, really offensively and then we missed the kick, the field goal at the end of the half, those are the differences in games. Those are things that we’re going to learn from and we’re going to get better from. So I’m proud of the guys for the way they battled today.”Doug Pederson, Eagles Head Coach on the play of Carson Wentz in Sunday’s loss
When we last saw the Eagles, they came up short in a late rally against the Ravens, who bested them 30-28 last Sunday. Philadelphia got punched in the face early, falling behind 17-0 as the Offense was stuck in neutral throughout the first half, punting on five of their first six drives, turning it over via a fumble and later on downs on two others, before missing a 52-yard field goal shortly before halftime. Things would open up following intermission, with the aforementioned Sanders breaking off a 74-yard run down the left sideline, fumbling the football into the end zone as he was tackled, where his teammate, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, collected it for the score. Following a touchdown courtesy of Lamar Jackson, the Defense would then go on to relegate Baltimore to a pair of field goals on their next four drives, while Wentz would bring the home side within striking distance via an 18-yard dart to Travis Fulgham (18 REC, 284 YDS, 15.8 Y/R, 3 TD), and a one-yard rush himself. However, the attempted two-point conversion would fail as the play was blown up at the line of scrimmage due to a stalled play fake. In the end, it was a terribly uneven performance from the Eagles, who despite rushing for a season-high 194 yards only possessed the football for 23:30, largely due to their inability to stay on the field, converting a dismal 4-of-15 third and fourth downs. He certainly started slow, but Wentz ended the affair with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-40 passing, while rushing for another forty-nine yards and a score, but was sacked on six occasions for a loss of forty-three yards and losing a fumble. Those aforementioned struggles of the Linebackers were on full display against Baltimore and the reigning MVP, as the Ravens rushed for 182 yards on thirty-seven attempts, with Jackson accounting for 108 of that total on just nine tries.