Eagles-Giants Preview Q&A With James Kratch

Why Zach Ertz will be so important on Sunday.

Zach Ertz. (USA Today Sports)

Zach Ertz. (USA Today Sports)

In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to Giants beat reporter James Kratch. We discussed why Zach Ertz will be so important on Sunday, if the Giants’ free agency splurge has paid off and who will win, among several other topics.

What are the Giants’ strengths?

“The rush defense is a major strength. Adding Damon Harrison in the offseason has been a major addition for them. The cornerbacks is definitely a strength, especially after the bye week as Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be healthy. With Darian Thompson hurting his foot again and not playing Sunday, that hurts. Andrew Adams is an undrafted rookie who got cut, was on the practice squad and then got elevated. He’s kind of been forced to start the last four weeks. He’s played pretty well, but I don’t know that coverage is necessarily the strength of this safety group. Adams and Landon Collins are more suited to play closer to the line, but Collins is having a breakout year. Beyond that, they have tremendous talent at wide receiver and a proven quarterback, but the offense has been struggling so much it’s hard to call that a strength at this point.”

What are the Giants’ weaknesses?

“The No. 1 weakness would be the running game. The offensive line isn’t as much of a weakness as some people make it out to be, but it’s not an elite group either. The tight end position, I would say, is probably the worst group on the roster by far. The Giants haven’t gotten much production out of them as pass-catchers or blockers. They’re dead last in time of possession and dead last in rushing attack.”

One of the big storylines in the offseason was how much money the Giants spent in free agency. How has that panned out so far?

“All of the guys they brought in have actually done really well. Janoris Jenkins has been a standout at cornerback. Some thought he may be a bust and he wouldn’t be worth the money they gave him, but I think you could make the argument he’s been their team MVP in the first half of the season. Damon Harrison has been very effective and has helped the run defense. Olivier Vernon, the $85 million big-name free agent, has been battling a banged up wrist. He’s played through it, but I think it’s definitely something that’s hampered him. He doesn’t have the sack numbers you may hope for, but Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul have been on the field non-stop — probably an unsustainable number of snaps. That’s probably one of the reasons they’ve been banged up. They spent a lot of money in the offseason and with the exception of not having a lot of sacks, the moves are paying off. The defense is much improved from a year ago.”

What do you think is a key matchup that could decide the game?

“On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are going to try to do what other teams have done: limit Carson Wentz. Keep his throws short. I think the major edge the Giants will have is their secondary because we all know the Eagles receivers aren’t very good, but the guy I’d watch out for is Zach Ertz. I know he’s off to a slow start, but he torched the Giants last year for 14 catches and around 200 receiving yards in two games. The Giants still kind of struggle to cover tight ends, and I think if there is a game where the Eagles want to get Ertz going, this is it. The Giants definitely have to keep him at bay, because if he gets going, that’ll be really bad news for them.”

Who do you think will win?

“I think it’ll be a relatively low-scoring game. I’m picking the Giants because I expect their defense to hold the Eagles to around 16 to 23 points, and I think their offense can just edge that out. It could go either way; I think these two teams are evenly matched. Provided the Giants can protect Eli Manning, which won’t be easy against this Eagles defensive line, I think they’ll do just enough to win a close game out of the bye at home.”