The visiting locker room at FedEx Field is divided into two cramped spaces. When the Eagles play there, the offense is in one room, the defense in the other. So it was natural last Sunday to assume that the mammoth, scowling Giant near the shower entrance was a linebacker or defensive end.

It was running back Brandon Jacobs - all 6-foot-4, 264 pounds of him.

You can look at the rosters and realize that Brian Westbrook could sit on Lorenzo Booker's shoulders and still not bring the power and mass that Jacobs does when he's in motion. You can scan the heights and weights and note that Jacobs is bigger than most of the Eagles' defensive ends and linebackers who will try to tackle him on Sunday.

But standing next to him for the first time really brought home the difference between the Giants' philosophy and that of the Eagles - and that was before Jacobs opened his mouth.

When he did, he talked about how Washington's defense had set out to shut down the Giants' powerful running game. That created opportunities for quarterback Eli Manning, who strafed the Washington secondary in the early going. But then, even though the defense remained in run-stopping mode, the Giants were able to grind out yards on the ground because they stayed with the run.

Don't worry. This is not another diatribe about how Andy Reid should run the ball more. This has more to do with what that approach reveals about the Giants' coaching staff as opposed to the Eagles'. And since the Giants have won themselves a Super Bowl and are 11-1 with a chance to repeat, that's a difference worth considering.

Fans get angry, which is understandable, and can be quick to forget that Reid's staff accomplished a lot of good things during the head coach's tenure. That's a shame. But the point here is to look at how the Giants are winning right now, and it's by dictating what they want to do - not taking what the other team is giving, a hallmark of the Reid approach.

Here's Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride talking to reporters yesterday about how he will adjust to the absence of wide receiver/marksman Plaxico Burress:

"We are going to do stuff that we always do. We will accentuate the things that we think our guys can do. We try not to ask them to do stuff that they would not be successful at."

Compare that to the Eagles asking the biggest offensive line in the NFL for much of the decade to play finesse football, or quick and intuitive runners to pick up blitzing linebackers, or a series of B-minus wide receivers to learn complex read-and-react route adjustments.

"We are going to come after you with a preset plan," Gilbride said. "This is where we think we can have our greatest success. And then we will see what you are doing and then we will adjust if we have to."

Gilbride is best remembered by Eagles fans for being on the receiving end of a punch from Buddy Ryan when both were coordinators in Houston. That was a long time ago. Since then, Gilbride has been a head coach (in San Diego) and part of some very good offenses.

But he is typical of these Giants, a team of once-ridiculed characters who rallied, won a Super Bowl, and now are an undeniable power in the league. From head coach Tom Coughlin to quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants really are like the Island of Misfit Toys after declaring and winning a war with Russia.

In other words, it is surprising and a little mortifying to be writing about Gilbride as an example of a coach who grasps something the Eagles' staff just doesn't seem to want to get.

In the teams' first meeting last month, the Giants ran for 219 yards. Jacobs ran the ball 22 times for 126 yards (5.7 yards per carry!) and two touchdowns.

"I think our guys have a lot more respect for the Giants' running game than before we went against them," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "I think we were a little surprised by how they run the ball, and I think our team will respond to that."

It does seem that, facing Jacobs and the defending champions, the Eagles maybe could have and should have mustered a little more respect.

That's a function of the Eagles' not quite realizing yet that they have been lapped by the Giants in the NFC, not to mention the division. Coughlin, Gilbride and Johnson's protégé, Steve Spagnuolo, are the coaches with all the answers now.

They are dictating. It will be interesting Sunday to find out whether the Eagles are able to react.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.