What to Watch for: Eagles/Giants (Round 1)
After losing a trap game to the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles are entering what is the beginning of a stretch that will define this team. Who better to play then than the division rival and Super Bowl champion (Ew.) New York Giants? Both teams are 2-1 going into this week and are looking to send a message to the division in what should be a very physical contest in prime time on Sunday night. So, as we prepare for what should be a great game, here are the 5 things to watch for:
1. Victor Cruz vs. Brandon Boykin: In one season, Victor Cruz went from being a nobody to a budding NFL phenomenon. In his first season of real action with the Giants, the second of his career, Cruz posted 1,536 yards and 9 TDs. As a result, he and Hakeem Nicks form what is arguably the best duo of receivers in the NFL. One major reason that Cruz is so valuable for the Giants is his ability to produce in the slot. This is where Boykin comes into the picture.
With Hakeem Nicks officially declared inactive for Sunday night, it’s by no means a stretch to believe that Cruz will be a major part of the Giants gameplan. Therefore, Boykin will have his hands full in a effort to rebound from an Arizona game in which he was the most targeted Eagle, giving up 5 catches for 63 yards on 6 targets according to ProFootballFocus. Good luck, rookie.
2. Demetress Bell vs. Osi Umenyiora: Typically, the blindside protector is the most important position for the offensive line. In the case of Michael Vick (a left-handed quarterback), the other side is just as important. The best way to maximize Vick’s talent is to enable him to move (either scrambling or rolling out) to the left side of the field. The issue, however, is that Bell, the replacement left tackle for King Dunlap, has struggled to pick up Howard Mudd’s scheme. He often appears lost when trying to maintain the edge and doesn’t dominate in the run game. This is the type of situation that great pass rushers dream about.
For Umenyiora, more specifically, it has him thinking about a certain game in 2007 in which he ripped King Dunlap apart for six sacks. The Giants know the type of impact that removing the left side will have on the game. If Osi can ring Demetress’ bell a few times, then not only will the Eagles suffer from using Celek primarily as blocker, but Vick will be running for his life thoughout the game.
3. The screen game: With the Eagles starting two replacement lineman in Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds, the Eagles NEED to give LeSean McCoy the ball. Look for the Eagles to go back to 2006-2009 when they ran the most fearsome screen game in the league with Brian Westbrook. The team is pass happy, the offensive line is beat up, and McCoy is the best player on the team. With the Giants likley bringing the heat early and often throughout the night, the screen game is the most obvious way to maintain drives and counteract the pressure.
4. Mychal Kendricks vs. Martellus Bennett: Mychal Kendricks has performed very well this year for the Eagles, staying on the field essentially all game every game for the Birds thus far. This trust from the coaching staff has provided a similar feeling of trust from the fans. Kendricks is a welcome change to the rotating cast of back-ups and role players at the linebacker position. One of the most important aspects of Kendricks’ game is his ability to cover tight ends and backs. For example, in the week two contest against the Baltimore Ravens, PFF lists Kendricks as giving up 6 catches for 19 yards on 11 targets. That’s a phenominal outing for a linebacker.
This week, Kendricks will be faced with covering everyone’s favorite fantasy football pick-up in Martellus Bennett. Bennett is player with a ton of physical ability that never seemed to fit in with Dallas. After four seasons, he was sent packing and has resurrected his career as a red-zone favorite for Eli Manning. In fact, Bennett is on pace to absolutely demonlish his career highs for every receiving category. He currently has 15 catches for 185 yards and 3 TDs. His best season prior to that? 2008, his rookie year, when he had 20 catches for 283 yards and 4 TDs. Certainly a guy that the Eagles can’t sleep on this week.
5. Mat McBriar: Yes. I went and did it. Punter Mat McBriar is worth a close look in his first week as an Eagle. Given how tight all NFC East games have the potential to be, field position and field goals will be key. The best evidence I can give of this? Last week against Arizona the Eagles field position throughout the game began from their own 24, 22, 20, 9, 25, 20, 5, 45, 30, 20, 22. This comes to an average of 78 yards per drive that the Eagles needed to go to get in the endzone. Not exactly a cake walk. Therefore, an important thing to watch for Sunday night is McBriar’s ability to pin the Giants inside their own 20 yard line. So, wait until the commercial break before you get another beer.