Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

What to watch in the Eagles-Giants game Thursday night | Early Birds

Here are the biggest story lines on and off the field heading into the important NFC East clash.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz needs to take command of the game at the start.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz needs to take command of the game at the start.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. It’s a good morning, indeed, because the Eagles are mere hours away from playing the New York Giants on national TV. By popular demand, they’ll be in their all-black uniforms, and they’ll have a chance to turn the season around with a coming stretch against division opponents. Winning this game won’t cure all that ails the team, but a loss would cast further doubt on its ability to right the ship and win the awful NFC East.

If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here​. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @EJSmith94.

EJ Smith (

Keys to the game

1. Daniel Jones has had just one turnover-free game in his brief NFL career. If the Eagles are going to win this game, it will likely involve getting Jones to cough the ball up, whether it’s by a strip sack or an interception. Jones had two fumbles and an interception in his lone game against the Eagles last season, and he’s been one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the league this year. He’s completing only 47.3% of his passes when under duress, which is in the bottom third of the league’s starters. If the Eagles can pressure Jones consistently, he should be in for a rough outing.

2. Can the Eagles running backs fill in for Miles Sanders? Boston Scott and Corey Clement will be seeing a significant spike in playing time this week with Sanders, the team’s featured running back, sidelined with a knee injury. The Eagles' running-back depth was questionable entering the season, and the two main reserve backs are about to get tested in Sanders' absence. Sanders leads the team with 71 carries, and Scott and Clement have combined for 33. The Eagles' inability to get the screen game going has aversely affected Scott’s role in the offense, but now he’ll be used in more conventional running opportunities. Against Washington, when Sanders was out with a hamstring injury, Scott had nine carries for 35 yards. The Eagles will likely need more production than that against the Giants.

3. Lane Johnson will be back in the lineup after missing Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury that’s hobbled him all season. Johnson had surgery on the ankle in August, and swelling has often been a problem. A few weeks ago, he had to have a cyst removed, which he said would help him better manage his pain. It will be important to monitor Johnson, who missed multiple series because of the ankle twice this season, especially considering backup right tackle Jack Driscoll is out with his own ankle injury. If Johnson can play at his usual high level, the Eagles offensive line should stabilize after a rocky Sunday against the Ravens in which Carson Wentz was sacked six times.

4. Speaking of Carson Wentz, the Eagles will need another strong performance from their quarterback, even as the pieces around him fall apart. Wentz has been much better in recent weeks, and his effort late against Baltimore was admirable. Considering what is around him offensively, there’s no time for Wentz to slip back into the slump that marred the start of his season. He’ll have to carry an offense that has fewer expected starters on the field than it does on the injury report. The Giants are 23rd in pass defense, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, the lowest-ranked defense the Eagles have seen this season. It won’t be easy with his patchwork supporting cast, but Wentz has a chance to put up big numbers.

5. DeSean Jackson will also be back after an extended absence with a hamstring injury. Although Travis Fulgham has emerged as a potential No. 1 receiver, Jackson gives the Eagles another offensive threat, even if he’s not playing a high percentage of snaps or producing at a notable level. Jackson, at the very least, changes the way defenses can play against the Eagles offense. Defensive backs have given Jackson on average 8.2 yards of space before the snap this season, according to Next Gen Stats, and that’s the biggest cushion in the league. If Jackson continues to demand the space, it will open things up for the Eagles offense. It’s also worth watching just how many snaps the veteran receiver plays in his first game back.

6. Evan Engram’s fantasy owners are excitedly circling this matchup because of the Eagles' history of defending tight ends. Engram hasn’t caught a touchdown this season, but the Eagles have given up scores to tight ends in four of their first six games. The hope for the Eagles defense is the return of Jalen Mills to safety and Will Parks from injury fixes this issue. Either player could match up with Engram. Parks can even line up as a linebacker, something we’ve yet to see.

7. The Eagles cornerbacks will likely return to normalcy as Avonte Maddox comes back from an ankle injury. Maddox will presumably go back to his role as the outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay, with either Nickell Robey-Coleman or Cre’Von LeBlanc at the slot corner. Robey-Coleman played on the outside Sunday and was only targeted once, allowing one catch for 11 yards. Especially with Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton figuring to match up with Darius Slay most of the time, the other two spots bear watching.

8. Jalen Hurts gave the Eagles offense the spark it needed against Baltimore. How he’s used against the Giants will be interesting, considering how much attention he draws. Especially with so many injuries to major offensive weapons, Hurts' ability to draw the eyes of the opposing defense could be needed. The Eagles didn’t have any live practice reps between the Ravens game and Thursday, so the team might have only a limited number of plays with a lot of practice reps that involve Hurts, but all those should be on display Thursday night.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Want to take a deep dive into the most important matchups for Thursday night’s game? Be sure to study up on Paul Domowitch’s scouting report.

  2. The Eagles will be getting a handful of starters back for the Giants game, as Les Bowen reports.

  3. Alshon Jeffery is not among the players returning this week. Jeff McLane explains why the Eagles' decision to keep the injured receiver on the 53-man roster is inexcusable.

  4. In case your belief in the Birds is starting to waver, Marcus Hayes offers seven reasons to keep the faith.

  5. Want some betting tips for the game? Ed Barkowitz has some information that could be helpful.

From the mailbag

Anything on Jason Huntley? — from George (@OKSirBCP) on Twitter

Good question, George. We’ve seen virtually nothing from Huntley, even though the team claimed him off waivers to start the season, placing him on the 53-man roster. The Eagles added Huntley instead of taking running backs who had spent all of training camp with the team such as Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins. They used a roster spot for him and subjected undrafted free-agent tight end Noah Togiai to waivers and lost him. They also elected to keep him over seventh-round pick Casey Toohill, whom they also lost on waivers last week.

Huntley’s lone carry came in the season opener against Washington, but there’s a good chance he will be in for more opportunities against the Giants. Eagles coach Doug Pederson hinted that Huntley could be part of a three-man running-back committee with Scott and Clement. He doesn’t have the playing experience that the other two do, but Huntley might have more upside.