Despite Changes to Eagles’ Defense, Giants Are Still Expecting a Slugfest
Some of the names might have changed for the Philadelphia Eagles on the defensive side of the ball due to injuries, roster moves, and even a change in defensive coordinator. But despite all those changes, the Giants are not viewing their match-up against the Eagles this weekend as a walk in the park.
Gone for the Eagles are defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, fired by head coach Andy Reid on Oct. 16, and defensive line coach Jim Washburn, fired Dec. 3. They were replaced by Todd Bowles and Tommy Brasher respectively.
Also gone is defensive end Jason Babin, who was unceremoniously released on Nov. 27. Now with the Titans, Babin’s 5.5 sacks is the same total as the team’s current co-leaders in that category, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham.
They’re also without defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who was placed on the Reserve/Non Football Illness List on Dec. 12.
This season, the Eagles are ranked fourth in the league in stopping opponents for negative yards, with 52 tackles for -133 yards. Since making the change at defensive coordinator, the Eagles defense has yielded an average of 345.4 net yards per game; 134.3 rushing yards per game; and 211.1 passing yards per game. In addition, opponents have only converted 47.4% of their third down attempts.
Despite all the changes to the Eagles defense, the most notable being the discontinuation of the wide-nine look that Castillo ran, the Giants offense doesn’t view this revamped Eagles defense as a pushover.
“You can see what they’re doing, how things have changed a bit,” added quarterback Eli Manning. “They’ve ben playing great defense these last weeks. You watch it on film. They’ve had tight games these last three or four weeks and have had chances to win games and beat Tampa in a close game, so we have to be ready for a team that’s been playing a lot better and figure out a way to get a win.”
So what is it that has changed for the Eagles defensively?
“They’ve received a lot of attention with those wide-nine ends and they’ve moved them inside,” said offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “The last four games, they’ve been less likely to blitz. What they’ve done (is) really relied heavily on their front four to generate power and some pass rush, and they’ve been very effective doing that.”
“They’re going out there and playing physical, aggressive football, coming downhill a lot of pressure and bringing a lot of run pressure,” added left tackle Will Beatty. “Even though they changed the coaches, they still have a veteran team that, when you watch film from the first time we played them this year, it’s the same type of trends.”
Fullback Henry Hynoski noted that the Eagles’ defense has been playing very well, and that given the rivalry between the two teams, the Eagles could be looking to turn it up a notch or two in what is very likely Reid’s final game.
“They haven’t shown a lot of complex blitz packages or anything like that,” Hynoski said about the differences since Bowles took over as the defensive coordinator. “That’s not to say that won’t change in the last game of the year – anything goes, so you have to be prepared for anything their defensive could possibly show.”
Fortunately, the Giants feel they have had enough film on the revamped Eagles defense to where they’re confident in their understanding of what tendencies to watch for and how to adjust.
“We have a solid amount of games to look at as far as their tendencies and what they like to do, and I think we have a good feel for what they’re doing defensively, so we’ll see how it goes,” said receiver Victor Cruz. “We understand exactly what we’re seeing out there and what they might do.”