Eagles-Giants Wake-Up Call Preview Q&A: James Kratch
In this week’s installment of Opposition Research, we talked to Giants beat writer James Kratch. We discussed how the Giants are different compared to their first matchup against the Eagles, why New York’s defense is playing so much better and who will win, among a few other topics.
How are the Giants different than when they first played the Birds in Week 9 and beat them 28-23?
“When the Giants first played the Eagles, that was their third win in a six-game win streak, but their defense wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination. It was kind a bend-don’t-break defense; they still gave up a lot of big plays, but they were better in the red zone. Like in that game when it came down to Carson Wentz’s incomplete pass in the end zone, that’s how a lot of games were going.
But since then, they’ve kind of gotten fat and happy on bad teams like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Chicago. They got railroaded in Pittsburgh and people thought they may slow down after that, but that hasn’t been the case. Over the last two weeks, they’ve become a dominant unit and what’s kind of amazing about it is they’ve done it with Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins missed three quarters of it. So the offense is playing similar and the special teams is a little bit better, but it’s the fact that the defense has gone from good to dominant.”
Which defensive guys have stepped up?
“Eli Apple had his worst game as a pro against the Eagles, and then they stuck him right back out there after that and he’s coming into his own. Still makes some rookie mistakes, but he’s made a bunch of plays for the Giants. They’ve figured out how to use strong side linebacker Devon Kennard as a situational pass-rusher on the edge and they’ve even put him inside at tackle here and there. That’s been very big for them. Landon Collins has continued his ascent and the linebackers have played really well. [Linebackers] Jonathan Casillas, Kelvin Sheppard, Kennard and Keenan Robinson have been very solid the last few weeks. That’s really been a key, plus Olivier Vernon being healthier than he was earlier in the year and making a bigger difference.”
Are the Giants a different team on the road than they are at home?
“They’re really good at home — 7-1 — but with the exception of the Dallas game in Week 1, I think that’s the last major step they have to take in their process is to win this kind of game on the road. They went to Minnesota and they lost. They went to Green Bay and they only lost by a touchdown, but that was kind of deceiving because the Packers really beat them up. Then they go to Pittsburgh and lose. I know the Eagles’ record isn’t great, but a divisional game on the road is a tough setup no matter what Philadelphia’s record is. The Giants are a team that’s won on the road — including against the best team in the conference — so you can’t say they’re not a good road team, but I think they’re kind of lacking in some ways that signature road win.”
Any notable injuries or suspensions this week?
“The really big one is Janoris Jenkins. Sounds like he’s got a bruised back with no damage to the organs, which is obviously a good thing. It doesn’t seem like it’s a long-term issue, but with the short turnaround Thursday, that’ll be tough. Shane Vareen won’t play, but he wasn’t there for the first game. I don’t think that’s a major factor because he hasn’t really been there for them this year.”
What will be a key matchup?
“This whole Lane Johnson thing, really. With JPP out, the Giants are going to have undrafted rookie Romeo Okwara playing there. Okwara played really well against the Cowboys and didn’t have as big of an impact against the Lions. With that matchup, I really don’t know what to expect. I could see Lane eating up Okwara and Okwara basically having no impact on that side, or it could be a situation where a bad matchup on paper for the Giants turns into a wash or a little bit of a good one because we don’t really know what Johnson is going to look like.”
Who do you think will win?
“I’ll pick around 24-20 in favor of the Giants. Their offense hasn’t looked great, but they have made improvements recently. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they eke out a win against the Eagles. I don’t think the Giants will hold them to single-digits or anything; the Eagles will probably be able to score a little bit. On a short week, it will probably be a sloppy game. The big thing for the Giants is get the No. 5 seed in the playoff picture clinched and don’t worry about all the tiebreakers and stuff like that. The Eagles are down, but the Giants haven’t swept the Eagles in so long. It’s the first time since 2000 they can sweep the Eagles and the Cowboys in the same season. The Giants have to come out and make a statement.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Everything you need to know about tonight’s game against the New York Giants.
Take a look at our picks for this week’s NFL games, including tonight’s matchup.
“He’s energetic and he’s eager and he’s ready to go.” Doug Pederson says Allen Barbre will start at left guard in tonight’s penultimate game.
Three numbers that matter for tonight’s game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
For most of the season, Doug Pederson’s approach has been to go for it, pens Zach Berman of the Inquirer.
Pederson will coach his 15th NFL game Thursday night when the Eagles host the Giants, and the sample size is becoming big enough to develop a sense of how Pederson coaches. He is unabashed about his aggressiveness. The Eagles have attempted 25 fourth-down conversions this season – eight more than any other team. Pederson has sent his offense onto the field for six two-point conversions, ranking third in the NFL. In some respects, he’s coaching with the defiance of convention expected of his predecessor when Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia in 2013.
Jeffrey Lurie hired Pederson as much for how he managed the team during the week as how he operated on game day – remember the emphasis on emotional intelligence? But a big part of the job is how he manages the game for three hours each week.
“You want to stay aggressive,” Pederson said. “You want to trust your players, and that’s what I’ve done and I feel like I’ve done this season. . . . It just comes down to relying a lot of times on the information, the data that’s given, and your chances for success. A lot of factors go into that.”
Pederson is often left answering for the result more than the decision. The two must be separated, though, to evaluate the merits of Pederson’s approach.
With a four-day rest, the Eagles playing on Thursday night might benefit the team to forget their loss from Sunday, opines Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
Thanks to this Thursday night’s game against the Giants, the Eagles don’t have to wait very long to attempt to get that bad taste out of their collective mouths.
“I would say, coming in here right away Monday, tough, emotional loss, the way it was in Baltimore,” quarterback Carson Wentz said, “to be able to flip the script and go forward was probably a good thing. To turn the page and go on to New York, I think it’s been a good thing.”
The Eagles have an extremely shortened schedule this week to prepare for the Giants. Game-planning on the short week will be a little easier against a familiar opponent like the Giants than it would be against a different team.
Since Thursday night games started in 2006, many players have spoken out against them, saying it’s hypocritical for the NFL to claim to care about player safety then force games on short rest.
The Eagles take on the Giants at home at 8:25.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.