What to watch in the Eagles-Giants matchup | Early Birds
After a week of self-scouting combined with Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Lane Johnson, Jalen Reagor, and Isaac Seumalo getting healthier, it will be interesting to see how the offense functions.
Good morning, Eagles fans. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll be roughly 50 hours away from the first Eagles game in two weeks. It’s an important game, too. The Eagles are somehow in the driver’s seat of the NFC East after nine weeks, and a win against the Giants would keep them well ahead of the rest of the division.
Doug Pederson will speak with reporters this morning, and the Eagles will practice around noon. A few players should be available afterward.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Keys to the game
1. Does the Eagles offense look any different? After a week of self-scouting combined with Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Lane Johnson, Jalen Reagor, and Isaac Seumalo getting healthier, it will be interesting to see how the offense functions. That offense lacked identity in the first half of the season, partly because of injuries at every position group outside of quarterback. Reagor and Goedert were in the lineup two weeks ago against the Cowboys, but look for both to have a bigger role as the rust gets knocked off. If Sanders and Johnson return as well, the Eagles offense will suddenly look like a group with plenty of firepower, a departure from the offense that struggled three weeks ago in the team’s 22-21 win over the Giants.
2. Carson Wentz had a bit of a backslide against the Cowboys. After a concerning start to the season, Wentz seemed like he was stabilizing a little. In the three games before the win against Dallas, Wentz was far from perfect, but he put together three solid fourth-quarter comeback efforts in which he made special throws. Against Dallas, Wentz arguably played his worst game of the season, turning the ball over four times and throwing for just 123 yards. It’s worth remembering that Wentz struggled against the Giants for most of the first game, including a head-scratching interception in the second quarter. The Eagles can win even with Wentz not at his best, but his decision-making has been concerning for much of this season. Seeing in which direction Wentz is trending after the bye week will be one of the most important factors in the game.
3. Brandon Graham and the rest of the Eagles defensive line were instrumental in the first Eagles-Giants game, and they’ll have to do it again Sunday. The Eagles sacked Daniel Jones three times and forced two fumbles and an interception against the turnover-prone Giants quarterback. Graham has been one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He’s two sacks behind the league lead, and he’s eighth in pass-rush win rate, which measures how often a rusher wins his block in less than 2.5 seconds. After a slow start to the year, the Eagles defense is tied for 14th in the league in forced turnovers. The Eagles have had five of their 10 takeaways in the last two games, and continuing that trend will be paramount against New York.
4. Goedert wasn’t a huge part of the Eagles offense in the Cowboys game, which was his first week back from an ankle injury that cost him four games. With Zach Ertz still on injured reserve, Goedert will once again be the No. 1 tight end and will presumably be closer to 100%. Considering Wentz’s tendency to heavily target tight ends and Goedert’s effectiveness as the second tight end behind Ertz, how he fares as a featured part of the offense bears watching. In the passing game, Goedert can exploit slower linebackers with speed and beat defensive backs with size. Several Eagles coaches have said the team missed Goedert’s run-blocking ability and the threat he poses in play-action situations, too. Richard Rodgers had six catches for 85 yards against the Giants three weeks ago. There’s a good chance Goedert will do even better.
5. Reagor, like Goedert, is approaching his second game back from injury. The Eagles' first-round pick rejoined the receiving corps for the Cowboys game and caught his first career touchdown, a 2-yarder on a shallow crossing route. Injuries to Reagor, DeSean Jackson, and Alshon Jeffery made way for Travis Fulgham’s emergence, and now Reagor and Fulgham project as complementary receivers. We got our first look at it against the Cowboys, but how the two are used will be interesting. If both players continue to improve, the Eagles could be set at receiver this season and beyond.
6. T.J. Edwards is coming off the best game of his career and hoping to cement himself as a three-down linebacker with another strong showing. The linebacker had nine tackles and a strip-sack against the Cowboys. He missed just one tackle and was decent in coverage, allowing three catches for just 22 yards. Considering how the Eagles' linebacking corps has played for most of this year, Edwards' showing against Dallas is encouraging.
7. Sanders appears on track to play Sunday after being a full participant in practice Thursday. How the Eagles' lead running back looks in his return is clearly important, but Boston Scott’s role will also be key. Scott was obviously pivotal in the first Giants game, catching the game-winning touchdown and totaling 92 yards from scrimmage. With Scott returning to a complementary role, especially with the Eagles offensive line getting healthy again, perhaps this is the week the team can turn around its unproductive screen game.
8. Speaking of the Eagles' offensive line, exactly how it’s configured is worth watching. If Johnson plays, the most likely combination will be (from left) Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Nate Herbig, and Johnson. Jordan Mailata flashed a significant amount of potential when filling in for Peters at left tackle, but he’ll be relegated to the bench unless Johnson can’t go. The team’s decision to bench Mailata here could have long-term implications on his development, but he could replace Peters at some point, because of injury or struggles.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Be sure to study up on all the key matchups in Paul Domowitch’s Eagles-Giants scouting report.
Brandon Graham is well on his way to getting a season high for sacks and the accolades that come with them. Les Bowen writes about what’s different for him this year.
Who will win Sunday’s game? Our four beat writers are in agreement in this week’s predictions.
Reagor and Goedert are healthier and hoping to boost Wentz’s arsenal against the Giants, Bowen reports.
Mike Sielski listened to Carson Wentz’s appearance on a hunting podcast during the bye week. He detailed the most interesting moments from Wentz’s conversation here.
Doug Pederson was asked multiple times about Brett Favre’s comments on Wentz and Nick Foles but declined to disagree with Favre. Marcus Hayes argues Pederson missed the mark by not defending his quarterback.
Speaking of former players discussing Wentz, Brian Westbrook talked to Domo about what Wentz needs to do to turn things around.
From the mailbag
Will Alshon be active or a healthy scratch? — from Scott (@TheScottSnyder) on Twitter
Good question, Scott. I don’t think Alshon Jeffery will be a healthy scratch this weekend, but somebody at receiver likely will have to be. The Eagles have seven receivers on the active roster, and it would be surprising if they dressed all seven. I’d imagine Quez Watkins is the scratch, but it could also be J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, or both if the team dresses only five guys.