Eagles Wake-Up Call: Defending Eli Manning
Billy Davis gave a knowing smile when asked about the quickness with which Eli Manning is getting rid of the ball.
“So once again,” Davis said, “it’s a high efficiency, quick, ball-out-of-the-quarterback’s-hand offense.”
The 2015 Eagles are accustomed to facing quarterbacks with quick triggers. According to Pro Football Focus, four of the five quarterbacks they’ve played — Drew Brees (2.44), Kirk Cousins (2.43), Matt Ryan (2.36) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2.40) — are getting the ball out in under two-and-a-half seconds, above the league average.
This week things will be be sped up even more when Davis’ unit squares off against Manning, who ranks fifth among QBs with an average release time of 2.21.
Now in his second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo‘s system, the 34-year-old Manning appears to be thriving in this style of play. He’s completed 66.5 percent of his throws through five games (well above his career average of 59.2) and has tossed 10 touchdowns to two interceptions while being sacked four times.
“They’re doing a good job of protecting Eli, and really giving him the tools to protect himself,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “Everything is quick game, but they still do a good job of mixing in the run and shots down the field. When you have a quarterback like Eli who has the entire playbook at the line of scrimmage who is smart enough to put the defense in position to be successful, you hand the keys over to him. He does a good job of running the show.”
The Eagles defense had pretty good success against Manning last year, holding him to a 41-of-76 passing (54 percent) with one touchdown and an interception in its two games against the Giants — both Eagle wins. However, the defense did allow a season-high 429 yards through the air in their second matchup as Manning chucked it up 53 times. And with his comfort level in McAdoo’s system on the rise, it appears he’s becoming an increasingly bigger threat.
“If he throws it that many times, he’s going to put eight-to-ten of them vertically on you, you have to make the plays that he goes vertical with,” said Davis. “[Odell] Beckham is a hard tackle, so when he does throw it underneath to Beckham, you have to get him tackled because he’s a great run-after-the-catch receiver.
“So, it’s just about playing within our system, keeping them in front of us and not letting them get behind us; putting pressure on Eli and making sure he knows we’re around him, whether he throws it away or eats it and takes a sack, that’s his choice, not ours. Our job is to put pressure on him and cover him down tight.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Each guy’s very difficult to deal with.” Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning discuss the Birds’ defensive line.
Fletcher Cox is rewarded for a monstrous performance, and coaching rumors refuse to stop swirling.
Josh takes an analytical look at Chip Kelly‘s fourth down decisions from the Eagles’ win over New Orleans.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski writes about Byron Maxwell‘s refined role.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones torched the Eagles for nine catches on 141 yards and two touchdowns, much of which came against Maxwell’s coverage. That led defensive coordinator Bill Davis to reassess how Maxwell was being used.
“I really had an expanded role (for Maxwell), I had him doing a lot of different things,” said Davis. “And I think by limiting that and letting him settle into the defense first before he moved too fast forward, is benefiting him. And again, it’s a learning process — all free agents, I don’t care how long they have been in the league, there’s a learning curve from the coaches learning the player and the player learning the system, and I think we are going in a great direction with Max on that.”
Maxwell agreed that he’s not where he wants to be yet mentally. “I don’t completely know the defense, the ins and outs,” said Maxwell. “Like if he asked me to play safety right now I wouldn’t be able to play safety. I would like to know everybody’s position, and I don’t necessarily know that yet.”
According to Paul Domowitch of the Daily News, the Eagles’ defense needs to do a much better job on third downs.
The biggest challenge for the Eagles on defense Monday will be getting off the field on third down. They are tied for 26th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 42.1 percent of their third-down opportunities.
In the last two games, their opponents converted 17 of 33 third-down tries, including 12 of 23 third downs of five yards or more.
“The last two weeks, our third down (defense) has been terrible,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “It’s a combination of things. If it was one thing, you would change it. But we’ve looked at it hard. Sometimes it’s technique. Sometimes we could’ve been in different coverage. Sometimes the pass rush wasn’t there.”
Kelly will address the media at 10:45 am.