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New York Giants: First Look at Philadelphia Eagles’ Offense

Giants Country on FanNation 12/8/2022 Stephen Lebitsch

Let's get to know who's who on the Eagles.

 

Walk around the New York Giants locker room Sunday following their all-important divisional contest with the Washington Commanders, and you were bound to find the deepest faces of dejection seen in such an overachieving season.

The reason for such dissatisfaction did not stem from a game that slipped out of the Giants hands late but rather a high-stakes moment that was thwarted by the team’s ill-timed conservative play. Despite quarterback Daniel Jones having one of his cleanest outings with 25 of 31 completions for 200 yards and a touchdown, the Giants relinquished their fourth-quarter lead and went schematically cute in overtime to tie the Commanders, 20-20, and leave their playoff hopes in the balance.

On the defensive side, New York got exactly what they needed from Wink Martindale’s crew down the stretch. While they allowed the Washington backfield to rack up 165 yards on the ground, the front line and supporting edge rushers sank quarterback Taylor Heinicke a season-high six times. It forced a crucial turnover to set up the Giants offense for an early second-half score.

Yet, none of that would matter in the end as the Giants’ offense went tame in overtime, hedging their victory on the leg of kicker Graham Gano who wound up missing the game-winning boot from 58 yards away. Instead of guaranteeing a split with their rivals, the Giants will have to face the Commanders again in two weeks, with their current Wild Card spots being chased by several other teams in a crowded NFC picture.

Before that rematch at FedEx Field arrives, Big Blue will need to rebound their mentality and get ready to face their toughest opponent of the season as the Philadelphia Eagles (11-1) travel to MetLife Stadium in Week 14. The well-documented rivalry takes an interesting twist this time, as the road Eagles come to town boasting the best record in the NFL and elite squads on both sides of the football.

Approaching Sunday’s matchup, the Giants and Eagles are meeting for the 178th time, including four postseason competitions, with the visitor leaning on a close series lead by a record of 89-87-2. Philadelphia has been the thorn in the Giants’ side for the last decade, taking 16 of their past 22 faceoffs with New York, including eight straight victories in the City of Brotherly Love.

Last year, the two franchises split their annual series for the second consecutive season, as the Giants took round one in East Rutherford by a close 13-7 margin before the Eagles returned the favor at Lincoln Financial Field in a dominant 34-10 extension of their home winning streak. In 2022, it’s the Giants entering as supreme underdogs looking to defend their divisional pride with an upset victory over the conference’s most dazzling offense.

Leading that offense is the multi-talented quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles’ 2020 second-round pick out of Alabama. Since leaving Tuscaloosa and taking the throne from Nick Foles, the 24-year-old Hurts has ascended into a championship-caliber player for Philadelphia, throwing for over 7,100 yards and 40 touchdowns in 42 games. His legs have also been a threat, tallying 1,747 yards rushing over the past three seasons.

In the Eagles’ record start this season, Hurts has completed 68.1% of his passes (career-high) for 2,940 yards, 20 touchdowns, and three interceptions, including an average throw of 8.2 yards. His turnover total is the lowest of his career and he stands first among active quarterbacks through 13 games. He’s also added 609 yards and 22 scores rushing in that span (4.6-yard average) to give the Eagles a dangerous dual-threat option if not properly contained.

Along with their versatile quarterback, the Philadelphia backfield is bolstered by workhorse Miles Sanders out of Penn State. The fourth-year running back leads the team with 187 carries for 924 yards (4.9 average) and nine touchdowns, playing as the Eagles’ burner in both the inside and outside zone schemes. Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott have contributed as well, used more in short yardage and passing situations with their speed.

The Eagles also showcase one of the most talented wide receiving units in the NFL, held down by a trio of A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, and Quez Watkins. Brown, who came over in a trade with the Tennessee Titans, has played at an All-Pro caliber level, earning 61 receptions for 950 yards and nine touchdowns while ranking top-10 in the latter two categories. The second-year Smith was a prospect on the Giants radar in April 2021 and is now ranking in the top 25 of active wide receivers with his early production.

Behind their veteran offensive line, which includes three starters with at least seven years of experience, the Eagles’ offense has posted some of the league’s scariest production totals.

The organization ranks second and third in points and yards, respectively, a great accompaniment to their defense that sits top-10 in the same areas. By air, they excel at converting first downs (3rd) and cashing in touchdowns (7th), and on the ground, their expertise comes in attempts (2nd), yards (5th), and red zone scores (1st).

The Giants have already seen their fair share of highly efficient offenses through the first quarter of their miraculous 2022 season. However, none have touched the accomplishments of the Eagles’ in what looks to be a smooth ride to the No. 1 seed for the despised franchise. A potential upset for New York will demand conservatism go out the window and trust be revived in Jones to lead the team to victory as his opposing gunslinger has done for weeks in Philadelphia.

Aside from divisional bragging rights, there’s a strong chance the Giants will need one of their two contests with the Eagles to punch their ticket to their first postseason berth in six years. Until the birds flock north via I-95 for the first meeting, let’s look deeper at Philadelphia’s playmakers and what to watch for on Sunday.

Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) turns away from a tackle from Baltimore's Pernell McPhee (90) Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 30-28. Jerry Habraken via Imagn Content Services, LLC © Provided by Giants Country on FanNation Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) turns away from a tackle from Baltimore's Pernell McPhee (90) Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 30-28. Jerry Habraken via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Quarterback

Following five seasons of the Carson Wentz experiment and the unforgettable 2018 Super Bowl run led by Nick Foles, it’s now the Jalen Hurts era at the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback position.

After playing three seasons at Alabama under the tutelage of Nick Saban, Hurts racked up a ton of potential prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft before being selected 53rd overall in the second round by Philadelphia. He was sought out for the dual-threat intangibles he brings, both of which have lit up the Eagles’ offense over the past three years.

In 42 career games, Hurts has compiled 585 completions for 7,145 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, including an average pass of 7.6 yards which is the most by an Eagles’ quarterback since 2018. On the ground, his impactful legs have churned a total of 334 rushes for 1,747 yards (5.2 average) and 22 touchdowns in that span.

With a quarter of the regular season left, Hurts is expected to exceed his 2021 numbers with flying colors, which the Giants’ defense hopes to contain to sneak a win past their rivals. The 24-year-old is ranked ninth, seventh, and first among active quarterbacks in total passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions this season, including fourth place with a QBR of 69.2.

Coming out of college, Hurts was widely compared to Tim Tebow for not only his dual-threat capabilities but his overall strength, toughness, and character as well. He is a much more accurate passer and runner than Tebow was, yet what makes Hurts similar is his durability inside the pocket, beyond the line of scrimmage, and his poise to make big plays late in a variety of different schemes.

Playing out of the shotgun, Hurts bounces around the pocket with unceasing energy. In contrast, the play develops, keeping his internal clock rolling until he steps into his throw with drive and velocity. If pressure starts to crack down on the inside, he will turn on his freakish athleticism and elusive speed to elude the pressure, extend the play toward the boundary, or take it upfield in a direct RPO style.

When he’s not carrying the football on the perimeter, Hurts is one of the best at extending plays and making big connections with moving receivers. His accuracy is at its best with intermediate throws, but the Eagles have helped him develop a deep touch, which he’s used to link with AJ Brown on numerous occasions this year. Hurts can also make short rollout passes on quick crossing route schemes, a weapon the Eagles could implement against the Giants pressure-heavy defense.

In the rushing attack, the Eagles love to feature Hurts in the direct snap and RPO game, something he excelled at with the Crimson Tide. He runs the football with good power and leg drive to earn extra yards on the ground, unafraid to carry piles of defenders with him and fall forward on his shoulder pads.

If there is a potential concern about Hurts’s game, it’s his seldom tendency as a decision-maker to break the pocket too early when throws are still to be made behind solid protection. This may result from his lack of desire to climb in the pocket and make a throw, but it often leads to Hurts missing early pass opportunities and being off-schedule with the timing of his receivers.

His rate of turnovers usually comes from taking risks on the harder throws rather than choosing the safe check down, which could cost him against a New York defense with strong-handed cornerbacks.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pa. George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK © Provided by Giants Country on FanNation Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pa. George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Running Backs

Using nothing more than the overall statistics to make this observation, the New York Giants will be facing the best opposing rushing attack on their schedule when the Eagles bring their trio of ball carriers to MetLife Stadium Sunday.

One year after being the NFL’s top rushing attack, including first rushing yards and touchdowns, Philadelphia’s backfield hasn’t shied away from their dominant production. In 2022, the unit remains second-best in total rushing attempts (402) while ranking fifth in yards (1,855), first in touchdowns (23), and 13th in average yards per carry (4,6). The rankings are the second-best over the last five seasons, only topped by 2021’s numbers.

First in command of the Eagles’ prominent running backs room is Miles Sanders, the fourth-year player who hails from the Happy Valley of Penn State. Taken in the second round of the 2019 draft by the team, the 25-year-old Sanders has given Philadelphia efficient and mostly durable starting production in his campaigns out of the backfield.

In 52 career games, he’s accumulated 667 carries for 3,363 yards and 18 touchdowns, including an average rush of 5.0 yards in that span. The Eagles haven’t kept him from crunching yards in the passing game either, as Sanders has totaled 121 receptions for 938 yards and three touchdowns, with his best receiving year coming in his 2019 rookie campaign.

Having the majority of the Eagles’ snaps to his resume, Sanders will push the football in a mix of both inside and outside zone looks, using his 5’11”, 211-pound frame, downfield instincts, and lateral elusiveness to garner an average of 4.9 yards per carry. He has all the talent to shake incoming tacklers and finish the play with pad-level authority, but he can also sit back on third downs and serve as the pass block option with decent hands and strong footwork.

While he had 276 career carries at the college level, Sanders has had no problem touching 160 rushes in three of his four seasons in Philadelphia. Off the snap, he runs with a well-defined lower body and hips, turning on his forward lean and square pads once he hits the hole or comes in contact with the defender.

Sanders is one of the most patient running backs in the league, deploying his good vision and quick, instinctive feel to process what is in front of him before finding the ultimate crevice for his carry. If nothing is available at the direct gap, he has the footwork and lateral agility to string together a couple of moves or sneak out of the side door for an outside run.

The one problem with the Eagles’ starting back is his average acceleration in the open field. Still, he tried to counteract that with constant balance and elusiveness to create extra yardage for himself. Sanders is the highest-scoring running back on the roster, so expect him to be involved inside the 20-yard line.

Behind Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott are complementary backs who fill in late-down rushing scenarios and contribute to the passing game with speed and athleticism. Their snaps will mostly come from the backfield, but the two can earn some reps from the inside receiver slot, depending on the schemes.

Gainwell, a second-year Eagle out of Memphis, ranks second among team rushers with 41 carries for 183 yards and four touchdowns, including an average rush of 4.5 yards. The 2021 fifth-round pick makes some of his pay-day as a pass catcher, where he’s totaled 46 receptions for 348 yards and one touchdown over two seasons.

Meanwhile, Scott, the Eagles’ 2018 sixth-round pick, has become infamously despised in East Rutherford for his unusually flashy performances against the Giants. In his fifth NFL season, he has accumulated 37 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown but has only added 11 yards receiving in his ten appearances this year.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) celebrates his touchdown against the Tennessee Titans with wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pa. George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK © Provided by Giants Country on FanNation Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) celebrates his touchdown against the Tennessee Titans with wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pa. George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wide Receivers

After having a mediocre group for the past few seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles spent part of their last two offseasons rejuvenating their wide receivers. Their efforts yielded two very talented weapons for the roster and now one of the most dangerous ball-hawking attacks in the entire league.

The Eagles made big headlines during the 2022 NFL Draft when they acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans in return for the 18th overall pick of the year’s festivities. Seen as one of the prominent moves of the offseason, Philadelphia brought over a $100 million player with a career resume touching 246 receptions for 3,945 yards and 33 touchdowns, making him the true No. 1 option for Jalen Hurts.

In his first thirteen starts with the organization, Brown has amassed 61 receptions for 950 yards (15.6-yard average) and nine touchdowns, the latter two numbers ranking him seventh and fourth among active wide receivers. Lining up on the outside with some slot work, the 25-year-old has made it his goal to be the Eagles’ premium-route runner with size, speed, and athleticism that dominates both the intermediate and deep levels of the field.

At the snap, Brown takes off with competitiveness and physical determination, fighting with his hands to ward off press contact and get his route progression going at an increased pace. He excels at selling routes with his feet and hips to deceive opposing corners and uses a variety of sharp cuts to set the stem and break off for a spacious catch in the short-range or vertical depth.

The Ole Miss alum is also very instinctive in the open field in that he knows when a play could develop on the other side of the field, kicking on the secondary jets to unearth a new route and get to his quarterback’s throwing lane. If a defender stays on his tail, Brown does a good job plucking catches away from his body and shields the pigskin from combat swings looking to pry it loose.

When Brown is deployed for the vertical game, he uses his baseball outfielder background and elite hand-eye coordination skills to track down the football while remaining upright to earn meaningful yards after the catch. The receiver has some elusiveness to slip a tackle or two but will often embrace the contact and drag it within for important conversions or endzone scores.

Before Brown’s arrival, the Eagles also went out and used their 2021 first-round pick to recruit Alabama product Devonta Smith as the offense’s speedy, short, and long-range receiving threat. A prospect also on the Giants radar before going No. 10 to Philadelphia, Smith has collected 61 receptions for 711 yards (11.7-yard average) and four touchdowns in 12 games, standing second on the team’s receiving leaderboard.

During his rookie campaign, the 24-year-old was one of the most productive rookie skill players in the NFL, tallying 64 receptions north of 100 targets for 916 yards and five scores. Earning comparisons to Calvin Ridley, Smith is a thin-bodied receiver but has the same speed, elusiveness, and change of direction fluidity as his mentor in Brown to tear up opposing mustaches at all three levels of the field.

Also playing from the slot or outside receiver position, Smith is described as a “buttery smooth route runner” who darts into his initial progression with long, loose strides and forward lean that helps avoid pesky press hands. He’s very urgent with his footwork and breaks, leading to opportunities for each comeback routes or instantaneous vertical bursts toward the endzone.

Smith rarely drops on-target passes in his direction and uses his speed to his advantage in covering ground to secure under or overthrown balls. He even has elite catch focus and body control when competing in the air, making defenders look like circus acts as he comes down with ridiculous plays and potentially takes off for open pastures.

Along with Brown and Smith, third-year player Quez Watkins leaves some of his own fingerprints in the Eagles’ receiving production. The team’s 2020 sixth-round pick from Southern Miss has tallied 22 receptions for 296 yards (13.5-yard average) and three touchdowns this fall, sitting fourth on the team and on pace to be his second-best campaign with the franchise.

Dec 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Jack Stoll (89) against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Giants Country on FanNation Dec 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Jack Stoll (89) against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Tight Ends

For most of the 2022 season, the Philadelphia Eagles tight ends department has been riding high off the production efforts of starter Dallas Goedert. Yet, with an untimely shoulder ailment sending him to the sidelines, the onus has suddenly fallen on a supporting cast to pick up the slack, resulting in a drop in output for the entire position.

In Week 9, during the team’s first loss of the year, Goedert suffered a shoulder injury after getting into a groove with three receptions and 23 yards, forcing the fifth-year player on the injured reserve list for the foreseeable future. Without the veteran’s 43 catches for 544 yards and three touchdowns at their disposal, the Eagles have had to rely on Jack Stoll and rookie Grant Calcaterra to fill in the snaps where tights are included, but the two have not done much for the offense in their reps.

Stoll, a second-year Eagle out of Nebraska, is the team’s leading active tight end with eight receptions for 97 yards (12.1-yard average) in 12 appearances. Signed as an undrafted free agent last year, he played in 16 games with Philadelphia but only saw four targets and 22 receiving yards over that span.

Between him and Calcaterra, the 24-year-old Stoll serves as the Eagles’ main pass-catching tight end in 11- and 12-personnel groupings. He can also step in and help the pass protection or stack the line on jumbo or 13-personnel packages for the run game, something the Eagles rely on a ton given their highly efficient backfield of ball carriers.

Off the ball, Stoll plays with a physical frame and strong yet soft hands, running crisp routes with good speed and sharp change of direction. He’s willing to abandon the route and scramble across the field if the play goes off schedule to meet his quarterback and make an open-field play over the middle. Philadelphia likes to run Stoll on many quick routes, so don’t expect him to be the deep-threat player the Giants have seen in recent weeks.

If he is asked to join the run protection, Stoll isn’t always used as an in-line blocker but can also do his job from the H-back spot. Nobody questions his effort and prowess in opening holes for the ball carrier, so New York must brace for him to be the extra blocker in their rushing path on occasion.

Calcaterra, the Eagles’ 2022 sixth-round pick from SMU, has barely seen the field with only three receptions for 57 yards in 10 game appearances. Part of that resume is due to his increased use as the in-line blocking tight end, even in the absence of Goedert, who expects to be out until at least Week 15.

Dec 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (68) against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Giants Country on FanNation Dec 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (68) against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line

One week after facing their most experienced offensive line for the Commanders, the Giants defense will be tasked with getting their pressure packages past the dominant front protecting Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles’ backfield.

Like Washington, the Eagles’ offensive line boasts four battle-tested veterans with a combined NFL journey of 37 years. That assemblement of experience came with very little offseason turnover, as only former All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks departed the team in the spring for his retirement.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia brought back several of its starting and depth pieces from 2021, ensuring plenty of comfortability and consistency for Jalen Hurts and company to work behind. According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ starting blockers entered the fall projected as the No. 1 offensive line in the NFL, a testament to the impressive work done by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland with his unit.

At the left tackle position, fifth-year player Jordan Mailata returns for his third consecutive season, holding down the starting spot. A 25-year-old and former seventh-round pick by the Eagles, Mailata has had to overcome heavy adversity in his years with Philadelphia, including criticism for his rugby background and not playing a single snap in his first two campaigns.

With class and incredible development in his role, the Sydney, Australia native rose from practice squad prospect to the league’s third-highest graded offensive tackle in 2021. Entering this season, he ranked 18th in his position and has continued to improve his craft working alongside fellow linemen Landon Dickerson. In 684 total snaps, Mailata has allowed five sacks and six penalties, keeping the pocket clean of extra hits on Hurts.

Dickerson is also back for his second season as the Eagles starting left guard. A second-round pick by the organization in 2021, the Alabama product was thrown into the fire during his rookie campaign with the center position locked up. Still, he grew quickly into the Philadelphia scheme and appeared in 13 serviceable games.

Besides the Eagles benefiting from his tag-team comfortability with Mailata, they like Dickerson for the extra pass-blocking prowess he gives to the left side of the line. While he has been penalty prone in his 756 snaps at guard, the 24-year-old holds a 77.7 pass-blocking grade on PFF by only allowing one sack, two hits, and ten pressures on the season. Dickerson’s run blocking is more suspect, but he still stands in the middle of the pack for his overall protection.

For the center position, there is nobody else the Eagles want snapping the ball to Hurts than twelve-year veteran Jason Kelce. Hailing from Cincinnati as Philadelphia’s sixth-round pick in 2011, the 35-year-old and five-time Pro Bowler has been the symbol of consistency and fortitude on the front line, one that looks to mentor the younger players before his potential retirement at the end of the season.

Kelce is one of the best centers in the game in overall blocking metrics, posting a whopping 99% efficiency rating in over 800 snaps as the team’s starting option. In 13 games this year, he’s yet to give up a sack or backfield hit, which has guaranteed his quarterback more time than needed to get the ball out cleanly. Expect the run game to move behind him as well, as Kelce has an 88.5 run-blocking grade for his second-best number in the last five seasons.

Moving over to Kelce’s right side, seventh-year pro Issac Seumalo handles the right guard position. The Oregon State product was a third-round selection of the Eagles in 2016, taking over the starting job after the retirement of predecessor Brandon Brooks and Dickerson landing the left guard role.

Seumalo has appeared in 77 games for the Eagles, including 56 starts, and provided their offensive line with a solid mix of pass and run blocking for their right-side packages. In 13 contests and 800 snaps in 2022, the 29-year-old has posted a 97.9% efficiency rating with just one sack, three hits, and 13 hurries allowed. He can earn some holding penalties here and three, but it’s more likely he secures his gaps cleanly.

Last but certainly not least, the beloved Lane Johnson rounds off the Eagles’ offensive line at the right tackle position. A 10-year veteran and 2013 first-round pick by Philadelphia, Johnson returns after leading all offensive tackles last year with zero sacks in 413 snaps and ranking second with an 83.0 overall offensive rating.

In 783 snaps this season, Johnson has been one of the crispest blockers at the right tackle spot, succumbing to zero sacks and hits with just seven pressures all year. His 99.1% efficiency rating is the best mark on the Eagles starting line, which has helped him increase his run-blocking efforts to a 77.3 grade for his third-best outing in the past five seasons.

If anything, with three consecutive Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro team nods, there is little for Hurts and the Eagles backfield to worry about so long as Johnson protects their right blindsides. 

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