Once a week throughout the 2013 season, we will focus upon on a player or matchup that could prove troublesome for the Giants in their upcoming game. This week’s spotlight is on the Eagles’ rushing attack.
The Giants’ run defense is not one of one of their most pressing concerns. It is not great, but it is not horrible.
But the front seven sure will be put to the test Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Through four games, the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (198.3) and yards per carry (6.1). The Giants have faced some good ground games this season, but not one of this caliber.
New Eagles coach Chip Kelly has installed an up-tempo, multidimensional attack capable of causing myriad problems for defenses. The primary beneficiaries have been running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher; and quarterback Michael Vick, who’s on pace for more than 900 yards on the ground.
McCoy (78 carries, 468 yards, two touchdowns) is excellent in space but can also thrive between the tackles. He is very elusive. And McCoy’s top backup, Bryce Brown, is skilled in his own right.
Vick (26 carries, 228 yards, two TDs) remains one of the league’s premier rushing threats at his position. He still has that extra gear, that speed that’s helped define him as one of the uniquely talented dual-threat players ever play to play the position.
Every time Vick lines up in the shotgun formation with McCoy at his side, the Giants will be challenged to decipher the Eagles’ intentions. McCoy can take a simple handoff and turn into one of the week’s highlights. However, Vick’s rushing and passing abilities must be respected, too. If the Giants load up to stop McCoy, Vick can keep the ball and make New York pay.
The Giants will need sound play on all levels to slow Philadelphia’s ground game. The front seven’s performance will be key. The Giants’ defensive linemen and linebackers must fight off blocks and limit McCoy to little gains. If defensive backs have to keep taking down the Eagles rusher in the backfield, it's going to be another tough afternoon for Tom Coughlin’s club.
The Giants have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards through four games. However, opponents have attempted 126 running plays against Perry Fewell’s defense, tied for second most in the NFL. Overall, New York has allowed just four rushes of 20 yards or more.
The Giants slowed Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles in week four, limiting him to 65 yards on 18 carries. The Giants’ solid performance against the speedy Charles came one week after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and running back DeAngelo Williams combined for 165 rushing yards on 30 attempts in a lopsided Carolina victory.
The Giants’ improvement against the run at Kansas City was a positive sign. However, slowing the Eagles’ ground game will be a whole new test of soundness, smarts, strength and endurance.