Eli Manning has been under siege since the beginning of the preseason, up through the first two weeks of the National Football Season. And whether it’s been via opposing defenses or his own coach, the barrage will likely continue, tomorrow in Philadelphia.
That’s because Manning’s protectors, a spotty offensive line, will try and keep the Philadelphia Eagles’ manic pass rush off their franchise quarterback. The matchup doesn’t just feature two blood rivals separated by roughly 90 miles of New Jersey Turnpike, but it’s also the Eagles’ home opener – and other than enjoying the misery of Dallas Cowboys’ fans, nothing warms the hearts of Eagles’ fans more than adding to the suffering of Big Blue backers.
The Giants (0-2) have one of the worst offenses in the league so far, tallying only 13 points so far. Manning has been knocked down and battered many times already. Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is still recovering from a severe ankle injury, but hopes to be near full strength by kickoff. But even with the electric receiver back to form, Manning won’t be able to find him if he’s constantly on his back.
The Eagles (1-1) will have the Lincoln Financial Field crowd in a frenzy. And that defense will be salivating at the prospect of facing a sieve of an offensive line, which protects a statuesque quarterback. Philadelphia has allowed an average of 22 points per game, but it’s a lively group, that has already registered eight sacks, forced three fumbles, an interception, and has scored a touchdown.
Fans of the Giants have witnessed a beat down of Manning and the struggling offense so far. Its first two games have seen eight sacks allowed and two interceptions of their leader, while witnessing an offensive offense that’s set a franchise mark for futility in the opening two games of this storied entity.
If the Giants plan on walking out of the Linc with a win, they’ll need the offense to show up and match an Eagles’ offense that has scored 30 and 20 points, respectively, in their first two games.
Salute Magazine takes a look at the most pressing matchups in a battle of two National Football Conference East Division rivals.
What to watch:
#1 Wrestling down Wentz … Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz is a playmaker who can beat most defenses with his arm and legs. The Giants will need to contain Wentz, who is directing an Eagles’ offense that is third in passing yards per game (298.5) and second in the league with a 55.2 success rate on third down. Wentz has been sacked eight times so far, but he’s still managing to complete 60-percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns against two interceptions. And when the passing play breaks down, he can do what Manning cannot – buy time and, or run. He’s also leading Philadelphia with 61 rushing yards.
Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo was effusive with his praise, calling Wentz a “young, dynamic, and impressive quarterback,” who is “having a tremendous start to the season.”
“It looks like he has eyes in the back of his head right now. He’s very elusive in the pocket. He’s strong in the pocket. He can escape. He can create on the move. He comes up throwing when he gets out of the pocket. He’s a dangerous player whether in or out of the pocket and he has some big players around him, some big skill players who can make some plays for him whether it’s [tight end Zach] Ertz or the two new receivers they brought in.”
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison even compared Wentz to a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“He just looks a whole lot more confident in the pocket,” said Harrison. “At times, he looks like Aaron Rodgers out there running around, evading the rush, and still making some pretty good throws.”
#2 Keep it tight … The Giants’ usually stout defense has had some hiccups against opposing tight ends. The loss to the Cowboys featured Jason Witten nabbing seven receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. The following week against the Detroit Lions, on Monday Night Football, featured Eric Ebron tallying five catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t monumental numbers, but it’s something to keep an eye on as the Eagles try and use Ertz (team-leading 13 catches for 190 yards) more down the field.
Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is well aware of Ertz and what it takes to neutralize him, but also reasoned Big Blue can’t solely focus on stopping the tight end.
“Cover him better. Knock him around a little bit at the line of scrimmage. Hope he drops a couple of balls,” Spagnuolo said. “We do have some certain calls in there to take away the tight end, but this team’s no different than the last two that we’ve played. You can’t just concentrate on that one position, because if you commit too many people to one spot, other things open up … Two weeks ago, we weren’t going to let [number] 88 [Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant] wreck the football game, so [number] 82 [Witten] gets a couple of catches. This past week, same thing. But we’ll change it up and hopefully when we decide to take it away, I call it at the right time when they’re trying to throw it to him. It doesn’t always work out that way.”
#3 Beckham watch … He may be the most important offensive player on the Giants – and that includes Manning. Sans a fully-healthy Beckham, the Giants’ offense has been atrocious. He made his 2017 debut against the Lions, as a reserve, and wasn’t really a factor. Beckham played 34 of the team’s 55 offensive plays and mustered just four catches for 36 yards.
The wideout hopes to play a larger role against the Eagles.
“It’s hard to get in the groove when you’re in and out,” Beckham said. “So, I look to play a lot more this week, in my opinion.”
He added that he feels he can be an impact player on Sunday and is trying to get as close to 100 percent as possible.
“My mind is on another level. I feel like I can take over a game at any time, no matter ankle, anything like that. It’s just a matter of getting those opportunities and making the most of them,” he said. “I always want to be a difference maker. … I’m going to get as good as I can get. And I know once I’m comfortable cutting off it each and every way, I don’t see any problems with it, even if it’s not 100 [percent].”