A Thursday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles will be a test for the New York Giants defense. Both units still look to be finding their groove early in the season with flashes of the good things that were expected. Injuries have played a part in that for both teams, though they should both be healthier on this side of the ball for the divisional matchup. Here’s what to look for on Thursday night when the Eagles have the ball:
By the numbers
For more explanation of these numbers, go here.
A heavy dose of play-action
Philadelphia has used play-action on 28 percent of pass plays this season, per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders, the fourth-highest rate in the league. While it hasn’t gone super well for them through five weeks — the Eagles’ 6.6 yards per play on play-action passes ranks 26th — it’s still been better than what the Eagles have done on passes without play-action (5.9 yards per play).
Meanwhile, few defenses have play-action run against them more frequently than the Giants — 27 percent, fifth-most. The Giants have also allowed the 13th-highest yards per play (8.9) on play-action passes while allowing the seventh-fewest (6.1) on passes without play-action.
The Eagles really like to use this on first down, when the league average pass-to-run rate is 50-50. Philadelphia is one of the most pass-heavy teams on first down (59 percent, the fifth-highest rate per Sharp Football Stats), but the offense will still make teams believe they will run before hitting the pass.
This pass against the Minnesota Vikings came on a first-and-10 with three wide receivers and six offensive linemen on the field. The run fake and the route concepts were enough to have a receiver wide open in the intermediate middle of the field, but there was also a deep shot available, which Carson Wentz took for a 48-yard gain to Shelton Gibson.
Philadelphia will also use 12 personnel — two tight ends — to pass frequently. League-wide, teams pass 51 percent of the time out of 12 personnel. The Eagles pass 66 percent of the time and use it more often (37 percent) than any other team in the league.
Putting on Pressure
Philadelphia’s offensive line was one of the pieces that got them to a Super Bowl victory last season, but it hasn’t been up to that standard through Week 5. The Eagles are 26th in offensive pressure rate allowed, per Football Outsiders. The Giants are 25th.
The Eagles come out better in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, which adjusts for down, distance, and situation, where they rank 13th, but still, this is not quite the top-tier unit the Eagles had last season.
These pressures and sacks are happening all across the offensive line. Last week against the Vikings, the Eagles allowed a strip sack and a Linval Joseph touchdown set up by nothing more than Lane Johnson getting beat on an inside move.
This isn’t a knock on Johnson, who is still one of the best offensive tackles in the league, but it does show there’s just been more pressure all over this line so far this season.
Per Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, Wentz’s sacks are happening an average of 3.93 seconds after the snap opposed to the league average of 4.28. These are quick pressures and sacks impacting the Eagles offense.
It helps that the Giants will likely get Olivier Vernon back on the field Thursday night in at least some capacity. Vernon will immediately take over as the biggest pass rush threat off the edge. In his absence, the Giants have gotten some pressure — 15th in defensive pressure rate — but it hasn’t come consistently outside of the game against the Houston Texans and one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Cam Newton was barely under pressure last week. With Vernon on the field, there’s now a bigger threat an opposing offense would have to account for, which could open up more opportunities for the other defenders on the field.
A broken Wentz Wagon?
Carson Wentz has now been back for three starts off his ACL injury, but he has yet to look like the 2017 version. Wentz’s numbers through three games look a lot like Eli Manning’s through five.
|QB||Comp%||YPA (RK)||ANY/A (RK)||DVOA (RK)||QBR (RK)|
|QB||Comp%||YPA (RK)||ANY/A (RK)||DVOA (RK)||QBR (RK)|
|Carson Wentz||67.20%||7.5(18)||6.57 (12)||-5.7% (18)||47.6 (23)|
|Eli Manning||71.70%||7.4 (19)||6.10 (22)||-7.3% (22)||52.5 (19)|
Wentz, to this point, hasn’t been helped out a whole lot by his receiving corps. The Eagles are tied for the third most drops this season, per Sports Info Solutions, and Nelson Agholor is fourth among individual players with four. Now the raw number of drops can be vastly overrated when factoring in the rate at which they occur, but the rate in which they have occurred is an alarming number for the Eagles this season.
Through his three starts, Wentz is throwing shorter and less aggressive passes than last season — 8.0 intended air yards to 9.9 last season and an average pass 1.4 yards behind the first down marker compared to 0.8 yards past it last season, per Next Gen Stats.
Tackling is still an issue
When the ball does get into the hands of an Eagles receiver, taking him down might be an issue. The Giants have been one of the league’s worst tackling teams through five weeks — they currently have the seventh-highest broken tackle rate per SIS.
The biggest culprits have been Curtis Riley and Alec Ogletree, who have each been charged with five broken tackles, which is tied for the fifth-most among defenders. Ogletree’s 25 percent broken tackle rate is the third-highest among 61 defenders with at least 20 tackle attempts and the most among linebackers. Riley’s 22.7 percent broken tackle rate is fifth-worst among that group and Landon Collins’s 16 percent — four total broken tackles — is 14th-highest.