BEHIND ENEMY LINES: A Closer Look at the New York Giants
Finally, in week 14, the Eagles and New York Giants will play each other.
The two division rivals are both on losing streaks, so one of them will end Monday night when the Eagles host the Giants.
New York is in the midst of an eight-game skid that has seen their record drop to 2-10, and that raises all kinds of questions about the team’s future. It’s a future that will include rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, though an ankle injury is expected to sideline him in this game. He will yield to veteran Eli Manning.
The Eagles are on a three-game slide and lost to the two-win Dolphins last week in Miami. While the Giants are playing for pride, the Eagles, even at 5-7, are still in the mix to win the NFC East.
Leading up to the game, I wanted to get the take of my colleague, Patricia Traina, who covers the New York for Giants Maven and SI.com, regarding what is going on with the Giants. She also hosts a daily podcast called LockedOn Giants and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the Giants.
I also answered five Eagles questions for her and you can find them on her site at www.si.com/nfl/giants
Here are Traina’s answers to my questions:
(Ed Kracz): It looks like Eli Manning is going to start Monday. Manning hasn’t had a lot of success in his career against the Eagles, with a 10-22 record including playoffs and has thrown an interception against them in eight of his last nine starts. How has he been behind the scenes since being benched for Daniel Jones and do you sense any added motivation in returning to the lineup for the first time since September?
(Patricia Traina): Everything I’ve heard is that Eli has been the consummate professional. He’s done whatever he can to be a support system to Daniel Jones and the rest of the team, and he’s stayed out of the limelight so ass to not draw media attention. With that said, I’m sure it’s been hard on him to not be starting and playing as he’s a natural competitor. While it’s unfortunate how it came about, I think there are a lot of people who are glad to see Eli get at least one last hurrah before he calls it a career with this team. As for added motivation, the players will downplay it, but I think Eli’s return to the lineup, however long it lasts, added a little extra juice this week.
(EK): Despite the record, Daniel Jones’ rookie season from a statistical standpoint isn’t terrible. Yes, he’s had fumble issues, but his 61.6 completion percentage with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions stack up well against the numbers posted by Carson Wentz in his rookie season (62.4 percent, 16 TDs and 14 INTs), which leads me to believe he isn’t the problem with this team as much as the players around him. How would you assess his rookie season and what letter grade would you assign for him so far?
(PT): I’d give him a solid C, but you’re right; he’s improving, and I’m encouraged. I’d like to see him address the ball security issues and his reads against the Cover shell. I’m also curious to see how he evolves as a leader as I always get the impression he doesn’t want to speak up because he’s a rookie and because Eli is still here. But I like what I’ve seen from the kid and I can only hope that he has a career that’s on par with what Eli had. With that said, I also think it’s important that people not compare the two at every turn as it’s not fair to Jones.
(EK): The mood in the Eagles’ locker room on Wednesday was pretty glum after losing to the Dolphins, which was their third loss in a row. How has the Giants locker room been while mired in an eight-game losing streak? Has there been any finger-pointing and who are the locker-room leaders who are trying to keep things together?
(PT): I wouldn’t say there’s been some full-scale finger-pointing, but I have heard some grumbling from players on and off the record that has to do with some dissatisfaction with how things have been going. Janoris Jenkins expressed frustration last week at not being able to travel with the opponent’s best receiver, a story I’m sure you’ve heard about. And as each loss piles up, you can see via the body language of the players that the dejection just takes a toll on the guys. But they keep on saying they’ll try to fight through this and figure it out. Whether they’re fighting a losing battle remains to be seen.
(EK): If the season ended today, the Giants would have the second selection in the NFL Draft, and picking first overall isn’t out of the question with the one-win Bengals just ahead of them at this point. Clearly, they have plenty of needs, but which position do you think is the most pressing? If you like, feel free venture a guess on which player they might take.
(PT): I’m limited to one? Seriously, this team has so many needs. But if I had to pick one, I’d go with a pass rusher (Chase Young anyone?) I’m also hoping they add another off-ball linebacker, an offensive tackle and another deep-threat receiver to the mix. I’m just a tad concerned though as with Dave Gettleman having traded away two draft picks for Leonard Williams in each of the next two years, I am not so sure that was the best use of resources for a player they could have made a pitch for after his contract expired.
(EK): Here in Philadelphia, there is talk of some major offseason changes that will take place on the coaching staff and that is even if they find a way to win out and make the playoffs. While Doug Pederson’s job is likely safe, the same cannot be said of his offensive and defensive coordinators. Do you foresee any changes at the top of the Giants’ three coaching spots, starting with head coach Pat Shurmur?
(PT): Oh yeah, I definitely think some sort of change is coming. Regardless of what happens, I think the defensive staff is going to be swept out and I also could see offensive line coach Hal Hunter fired as well given how that unit regressed despite being improved on paper. As for Shurmur, that situation is more fluid but right now I’d probably lean toward him being swept out as well unless he can put forth a convincing argument that he’s essential to Jones’ continued development (which by the way he is not as he’s not the only quarterbacks coach out there). But I think if Shurmur is retained, if I’m management, I tell him to give up the play calling because there have been far too many in-game management screw ups that reinforce my belief that he’s overwhelmed.