The Giants don’t find themselves among the leaders in many NFL categories through 13 weeks, but they have managed to sit at the top of at least one.
Going into Monday night’s matchup against the Eagles, New York is holding tight ends to the fewest catches per game in the league, allowing an average of 3.25, according to CBS Sports.
Dallas Goedert didn’t know the Giants’ defense was among the best, but he thinks he and fellow Eagles tight end Zach Ertz could skew those stats the other way at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday.
“They cover [tight ends] with their safeties, they’ve got good safeties,” Goedert said. “Their linebackers fly around and make plays. I think me and Zach have the potential to have a pretty big day, so, maybe we can change that number.”
The Giants’ defense ranks 28th in yards allowed per passing attempt and have given up the eighth-most passing touchdowns this season, making the discrepancy between how they defend tight ends versus every other skill position even greater.
The Eagles’ offense runs through Ertz and Goedert, though. It has struggled to get production out of its wide receiving corps since DeSean Jackson went down earlier this season, making two-tight-end formations the focal point. Ertz leads the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
No team in the NFL targets tight ends as often as the Eagles. Ertz leads the league’s tight ends with 106 targets, and Goedert is 17th with 53.
“[The Giants] do a lot of stuff defensively,” Ertz said. “They kind of throw everything at you, a lot of moving parts, a lot of different personnel groupings.”
One of those moving parts might be stationary on Monday, though, as Giants safety Jabrill Peppers is unlikely to play while healing from a spinal fracture.
Peppers frequently matched up against opposing teams’ tight ends before leaving with the back injury two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears.
“Jabrill Peppers is a really good player,” Ertz said. “I don’t know if he’s playing or not yet, but they’ve got a pretty good interior group. But, I’ve got a lot of confidence, too.”
Peppers, a former first-round pick who was traded by Cleveland to the Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. deal last offseason, played a big part in holding Vikings Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph to one catch for a season-low 4 yards in Week 5. Against the Lions three weeks later, Peppers limited T.J. Hockenson to one catch for 21 yards.
Peppers would frequently match up with the opponent’s top tight end in man coverage, something the Ertz and Goedert have grown accustomed to seeing this season.
“We don’t really see linebackers very much,” Goedert said. “He’s a good player. He does a lot of good things against the run and the pass.”
But Peppers is unlikely to go on Monday, which would leave rookie safety Julian Love taking over at least some of Peppers’ responsibilities.
Love was a fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame in last April’s draft and has played well this season, especially in relief of Peppers. He had an interception in Week 12 against the Bears after Peppers went down, and forced a fumble last week against the Green Bay Packers in his first career start.
The Giants’ tight-end defense held up without Peppers. They limited Packers tight end Jimmy Graham, albeit slowed by injuries, to one catch for 16 yards in his 27 snaps.
Ertz is coming off one of the worst games he’s had in recent memory. He was battling a hamstring injury that held him out of practice leading up to last Sunday’s game and had two costly drops, both of which could have resulted in touchdowns during the 37-31 loss in Miami. Ertz finished the game with three catches for 24 yards.
Ertz said he was angry with himself the day after the game, but is ready to move on to the Giants and their surprisingly good tight-end defense.
“I’ve played over 100 games in this league now and I’ve had a lot of success," Ertz said. “I can’t let one game define me. Obviously I didn’t put a lot of good stuff on film that I was proud of, but I’m not going to lose confidence in myself. I know the coaches aren’t going to lose confidence in me. I gotta be the player that this team needs me to be.”