Unlike the New York Police Department, the Eagles were never able to put the handcuffs on Plaxico Burress.
When it comes to Eagles tormentors, the 6-foot-5 Giants receiver with the stork-like reach and soft hands ranks right up there with the best of them. Or worst, depending on your perspective.
In 10 career games against the Eagles, Burress had 41 catches for 724 yards, an average of 17.7 yards a catch, and seven touchdowns, several of them timely. Burress ruined the Eagles' home opener two years ago when he caught the winning TD throw in overtime. And even though the Eagles held him to one catch in their 36-31 loss to the Giants last month, it happened to be a TD.
It's safe to say, then, that the Eagles have some sense of relief they won't have to deal with Burress when they play New York Sunday at Giants Stadium in a game they probably must win to keep their slender playoff hopes alive.
Burress was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list and is out for the season after he accidentally shot himself in the right thigh while at a Manhattan night club. He was charged with possession of an unregistered gun.
The Eagles and their defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, realize they still have their hands full even though Eli Manning won't have Burress available. The Giants have the best running game in the NFL, a capable replacement for Burress in Domenik Hixon, and a quarterback who is playing with confidence and precision.
"He's a good route runner with good size," Johnson said of the 6-2 Hixon. "He goes up and gets the ball, has good speed, and right now he's catching everything Eli is throwing. Actually, he's been very productive in place of Plaxico, and I see him as a legitimate starter."
Still, Johnson likes the fact Manning won't have Burress to look for when the Giants get in the red zone, from where Burress can be deadly on fade routes because of his long reach. It gives him a little more maneuverability with his defense.
"The last time we played them, he caught one pass, and that was a touchdown," Johnson said yesterday. "His forte is down in the red zone. The biggest factor was Plaxico down in the red zone. That's where he gave us some problems."
With Burress gone, the Eagles might be more willing to stack the line of scrimmage with eight defenders to stop the Giants from steamrolling for 219 yards, as they did last month. Of course, the Redskins tried that last week, and Manning punctured holes in that game plan by throwing for nearly 300 yards in the first half - without Burress.
"It [not having Burress] really doesn't change much because the way they play they spread the ball around," safety Quintin Mikell said. "So we still have to stop the run first, and we still have to worry about their receivers because they're all capable. So we're going in with the same concept we had last time."
Same concept. Different approach. Johnson said the Eagles were caught off guard by the Giants' running game last month, adding: "I think our guys have a lot more respect for the Giants' running game than they had before when we played them."
Mikell said the Giants showed running schemes that caught the Eagles' defense off guard.
"They changed up some things last time," Mikell said. "They did a couple different things scheme-wise and we were probably expecting a different kind of offense last time. I think this time we have a good feel for what they're going to do, and we're going in with a different mentality."
Johnson suggested the Eagles might have underestimated the run-blocking ability of Kevin Boss, the Giants' 6-6, 253-pound tight end.
"I think he's one of the better tight ends in the league as far as run-blocking," Johnson said.
Since the Eagles last played the Giants, Akeem Jordan has replaced Omar Gaither at outside linebacker, and Johnson said Jordan could be a match for Boss on pass routes.
"Backs and tight ends," Johnson said, when asked if Jordan can cover both.
Johnson also has a full complement of defensive linemen to rotate this time, which should enable them to stay fresh as they go at it against the Giants' superb offensive line. Backup defensive ends Victor Abiamiri and Chris Clemons have shown improvement, and rookie tackle Trevor Laws will probably see a lot of action helping interior linemen Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley against the run.
Whatever the Eagles do to try to contain the Giants' running game, they'll do so knowing Burress won't be around to complicate their task.