Giants rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich could see his first significant action of the season on defense this Sunday against the Eagles.
There's a lot about this game that favors the Philadelphia Eagles, I believe: their starting cornerbacks' playing well of late, the absence of Giants' linebacker Michael Boley possibly opening the door for a big day from LeSean McCoy, the rookie linebackers who will have to fill the void for Boley and the fact it's do-or-die for Philly whereas the Giants have some wiggle room.
The line (Giants by 4) is also talking to me because that should be higher. But frankly, the move from 3 to 4 means it's talking to me less.
All said, I could see an Eagles victory on Sunday. But I don't see an Eagles victory on Sunday.
I just can't bring myself to pick a team that's showing signs of turmoil, is relying on a quarterback who didn't know where to line up last week, and a team that can't find a way to play well in the fourth quarter when it counts the most.
Until further notice, I'm going Giants to put the final nail in the Eagles' coffin.
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SUNDAY'S GAME: vs. Eagles, 8:20 p.m. (not really; more like 8:30 p.m.), NBC
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Offense: Coordinator Kevin Gilbride has noticed a trend more toward a traditional Eagles defense in recent weeks. That means pressure from blitzes and not just the front four as well as single coverage in the secondary.
Gilbride is particularly impressed with CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel. Asomugha, a traditional press/man corner, struggled in adjusting to some of the zone schemes thrown his way. According to Gilbride, he's back to doing what he does best - even in a zone call.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s three-deep zone, he’s in press," Gilbride said.
In "three-deep zone," the cornerback is supposed to bail out at the snap and get deep.
"No, ‘I got you,'" Gilbride said of Asomugha's mentality. "He’ll forget about the deep third. 'I got you.' That’s how he plays. It just the things we have to contend with when you’re in on this side. And when you go on (the other) side, it’s exactly the opposite. You have to be able to combat this to have any success."
The other side is Samuel lining up off the receiver and trying to make a break on the ball. He did it against the Giants two years ago and did it on Sunday for a pick six against the Cardinals.
"They’re good," Gilbride said. "They didn’t overrate them, trust me."
The Eagles need those two to play huge games against WRs Hakeem Nicks (who will probably see single coverage) and Mario Manningham. Don't expect the Eagles to flip Asomugha to Nicks' side. He'll likely remain on the right, with Samuel at left corner, where he's most comfortable.
Defense: To make up for the loss of Boley, who will likely be ruled out very shortly, I'd expect the Giants to rely upon a combination of their rookie LBs: Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich. Yes, the Herzlich of "60 Minutes."
Around the bye week, Giants LB coach Jim Herrmann said he wanted to start working Paysinger and Herzlich into the rotation. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Herzlich was in some packages in recent weeks but "the personnel groups we were playing didn’t allow us to use him. It is not that we haven’t wanted to use him."
What better time to continue Herzlich's great story than this weekend? Perhaps that will be the case.
"He's a big man and he is physical. Mark is a go-getter," Fewell said. "He's one of those 100-percent guys that, if he sees something, he's going to go smack it and ask questions later. The thing that I really like about Mark, he is a student of the game. In the classroom, when you are going over a defense and about to ask a question, he is already answering it. You really like his enthusiasm for learning the game and him trying to absorb as much as he possibly can absorb."
That sounds like a guy who will see the field soon. To me, if I'm the Giants, I run plenty of nickel packages on Sunday but switch up the personnel at LB depending on the situation. I'd have Mathias Kiwanuka out there as the guy to keep everybody lined up and then have Herzlich in more run-type situations with Williams and Paysinger working into second- and third-and-longs. This way you don't have to put more than one rookie on the field at a time while protecting against both the run and the pass as much as possible. It'll be a challenge but variety could be the spice of dealing with it.
THE LINE: Giants by 4. Over-under 46½.
ONE MORE THING: After Jones struggled with a quick adjustment on Vernon Davis' TD on Sunday, expect more simplified responsibilities for those rookie LBs.
"We will take some of the burden off of them," Fewell said.
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Thanks for that, Mike... Yes, the Eagles have an opportunity on offense to exploit the NYG linebackers on Sunday... but even if they do, it's still on the Philly defense to avoid returning the favor... The oldest cliche in football is "Defense wins championships"... And nothing could be more appropriate to underscore what the Eagles have to do in order to get off the losing snide in stopping the Giants on Sunday. We simply have to see a great defensive game plan and execution of it against the Giants. Nothing short of a sensational performance by every Eagle on the defensive side of the ball will be required to win this game. And to be a little cynical, nothing short of great defense by the Eagles in this game will be able to save Juan Castillo's job as DC...