By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
W2W4: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Week 5 in the NFL season rarely is do or die time for teams but this season that is exactly what the matchup between the Eagles and Giants represent. Both teams are off to poor starts on the season, going 1-3 and 0-4 respectively but are still in contention because of how putrid the rest of the NFC East has been; the Cowboys are the lead dogs at 2-2 with the Washington Redskins playing as poorly as the Eagles and Giants at 1-3. This week represents a must win for both the Eagles and Giants as a win will put them right back into the thick of the division race and a loss will effectively end the season. For two teams playing so poorly the season is on the line now and here are some things to keep an eye on Sunday afternoon.
-Injuries Galore = Opportunities
The play has been less than stellar for the Giants on the field through four weeks and a big reason for that have been injuries; that will not be changing this week as the injury front has only gotten worse for the Giants. This week the Giants listed 15 different players on the injury report; six are listed as out in center David Baas, cornerback Jayron Hosley, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, tight end Adrien Robinson, cornerback Aaron Ross and right guard Chris Snee. Cornerback Corey Webster is listed as doubtful, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and wide receiver Louis Murphy are both listed as questionable and guard David Diehl, linebacker Mark Herzlich, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, safety Cooper Taylor, cornerback Terrell Thomas and linebacker Jacquian Williams are all listed as probable.
With all these injuries being of concern the Giants will be counting on some new faces this weekend to step up and help end the losing streak. Two names to keep a name on will be on the defensive line in rookies Damontre Moore and Jonathan Hankins. Both are looking at expanded roles in the defensive game plan this weekend and will have their hands full going up against one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL led by quarterback Michael Vick. Moore has been a monster for the Giants on special teams the last few weeks, blocking a punt last week against the Chiefs and making some tackles on returns. Hankins has been inactive the first four games but head coach Tom Coughlin has talked highly of him.
One person the Giants will be excited to see out on the field, maybe not this week but hopefully next week is linebacker Jon Beason. The Giants acquired the former Pro Bowler this week from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a late round draft pick. Beason has dealt with injuries the past few seasons but prior to that was one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. To make room for Beason on the roster Snee was moved to season ending IR with his hip injury, one that may require surgery.
-Will Playmakers Show Up
So far on the season a lot of the offensive woes have been placed on the offensive line and rightfully so; they have been playing well below their capabilities, which has resulted in poor play from everyone on the offense. But not all the blame can be placed on them as the playmakers for the Giants just have not performed up to standards.
Hakeem Nicks is off to the worst start in his career as he is yet to catch a touchdown pass and has been held to three receptions in his last two games combined, one of which he went without a catch. Nicks had a poorly stated quote in which he referenced not being able to get the ball to himself but then put up a clunker last week against the Chiefs, dropping three passes and letting down Eli Manning and the rest of the offense. Nicks has got to start turning things around this season for the Giants to get their passing game going and there aren’t many better chances to do so than against the 30th ranked passing defense in the NFL.
Nicks has not been the only disappointment in the passing game as fellow receiver Rueben Randle has disappeared in the last couple weeks after a big opening night game against the Dallas Cowboys. Brandon Myers, who has dealt with his own injuries the first few weeks of the season, has also been unable to produce much the last couple weeks as the Giants have received drubbings at the hands of the Broncos, Panthers and Chiefs since the six-turnover disaster to open the season against the Cowboys. If not for Victor Cruz showing up the Giants may be the owners of the worst offense in football this season.
-Return of Thunder and Lightning?
In a surprise move of sorts the Giants released running back Da’Rel Scott. It is not surprising given that Scott is limited talent wise and was a seventh round pick but surprising because Scott had been receiving almost half the snaps at running back through the first four weeks. His release means that the Giants will be giving the keys solely to David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs in the backfield. Both will obviously see an increased role with so many snaps now becoming available and what they do with them will have a big impact on how the Giants offense progresses through the season. Wilson has big play ability and tons of potential and it looks like we may finally get to see what he is made of as a legitimate lead back once again. Wilson and Jacobs give the Giants the best combination in the backfield as both are more talented than Scott was and both at least keep the defense honest; no one was really scared of Scott hurting them out of the backfield. Rookie Michael Cox could also see an increase in snaps as the Giants have used at least three running backs in every game this season.
-Will Defense Hold Up?
As mentioned earlier the Giants defense will have a couple of new faces this weekend along the defensive line as rookies Moore and Hankins should be in the rotation. There will also be some new faces in the secondary as Charles James, an undrafted rookie, may suit up this week with Prince Amukamara, Trumaine McBride and Thomas being the only healthy cornerbacks going into the game. The Giants will also receive a boost to the safety position with Will Hill returning from his four game suspension for violating the league substance abuse policy.
It will be interesting to see if the Giants defense can hold up this week against an offense that has the potential to move up and the down field as fast as anyone in the league behind Vick, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Giants are just barely better than the Eagles on defense, ranking 22 in the NFL in total defense compared to 31st for Philadelphia. But for how poor the Eagles play defense they play offense well as the Broncos are the only team with more total offensive yards on the season than the Eagles. The Giants figured to have their hands full coming into the game but the task is that much tougher now with so many injuries on that side of the football.