Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles have a chance this week to improve to 2-1 and start their season with two division wins. That would be huge for them. 

They should have a pretty good chance. The Giants have been a dumpster fire through two games. They're 0-2 and have been outscored by 30 points. 

With that said, they're an absolutely desperate team. And desperate teams can be dangerous teams. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday at the Linc: 

Ereck Flowers vs. Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett
For as bad as Isaac Seumalo has been through two games with the Eagles, Ereck Flowers has been even worse for the Giants. The former first-round pick has been a disaster. He gave up three sacks to Ziggy Ansah and was basically a turnstile. Things won't get much easier. With Brandon Graham on the other side, Curry and Barnett should have a chance to do some damage. And Graham should feast on Bobby Hart on the other side. This could be the week when Barnett picks up his first NFL sack. 

But just because the Giants' O-line has struggled, it doesn't mean the Eagles can abandon their technique. 

"You still have to be disciplined," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "You still have to read your keys, and you still have to be able to execute. Just because they haven't been very successful in the first two weeks running the ball doesn't mean they're not going to come out in this game and try to run the ball. So we have to play good technique there."

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Eagles corners
The Giants' top receiver is still hampered by that ankle injury he suffered in August. Beckham played just 34 snaps (61 percent) against the Lions and now has a short week to recover. Beckham sure doesn't appear to be 100 percent, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said they have to prepare as if he is. 

In six career games against the Eagles, Beckham has 41 catches for 524 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad. 

"He's another week away from that [injury], another week ahead of his rehab and things like that, so we'll have to be ready for (No.) 13, and we're going to have to be ready for him being the same guy we remember from last year," Schwartz said. "And he's a very difficult player to handle, and their offense has missed him the first couple weeks. It's our job to keep him from being a factor — well, he's going to be a factor, but keep him from being a game-changing factor. It's going to take good team defense to do it. It's not going to be one guy that'll do it."

Chance Warmack vs. Damon Harrison
We already talked about the Giants' offensive line. Well, the Eagles haven't been that much better. Seumalo was a big enough problem in the first two weeks that he's now been benched. That means former first-round pick Warmack is the new starting left guard. And he'll have a tough task against "Snacks" Harrison. At 6-4, 350 pounds, Harrison is a load in the middle of that line and one of the biggest players in the NFL. Harrison is great against the run, but Warmack has a reputation for being a good run-blocker. Should be a good battle. 

Nelson Agholor vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Remember when Agholor was heading for the Pro Bowl after a big Week 1 performance? Well, he didn't have a great game in Week 2. Although, he did pull in his second touchdown of the season. It's the first time in his career he's had touchdowns in back-to-back games. He'll get to face off against old friend DRC on Sunday. 

It sounds like Janoris Jenkins will be back for the Giants in Week 3; that'll be a big boost for them. But either way, DC Steve Spagnuolo likes having Rodgers-Cromartie as their nickel corner. That will leave this matchup for most of the game. 

DRC fact from the 2012 Eagles media guide: his nickname is "Sexy Bologna." 

Evan Engram vs. Malcolm Jenkins
The Giants' first-round pick is off to a pretty good start. He has eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first two NFL games. He's going to face a tough test on Sunday, though. The Eagles are pretty good against tight ends. I know, I know, 'They weren't very good against Travis Kelce.' But Engram isn't Kelce ... not yet anyway. 

Schwartz said Engram is looking like a Kelce or Jordan Reed-type player so far and mentioned that the Giants are finding ways to get him involved. 

The Eagles will likely be without Rodney McLeod in this game, but Jenkins will need to have a big game against Engram. 

Eagles Injury Update: Secondary hamstrung for second straight day

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CSN

Eagles Injury Update: Secondary hamstrung for second straight day

It looks like all three members of the Hamstrung Trio (see story) weren't practicing again on Thursday. 

At the start of Thursday's practice, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins, who suffered hamstring injuries on Sunday against the Chiefs, were not participating. This will be the second straight day all three will miss practice. 

McLeod was the only member of the trio to even make an appearance at practice before reporters were kicked out after individual drills. He walked onto the field with a compression sleeve on his right leg and began to watch.

There was, however, a new safety on the field. Newcomer Trae Elston, who was claimed off waivers from the Bills, was on the field for the first time with the Eagles. He was wearing No. 35. 

It'll be tough for the Eagles to get Elston caught up by game time on Sunday at 1 p.m. Aside from Elston, the Eagles have just Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos as safeties, although linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill could be used in a pinch and Jenkins thinks a couple cornerbacks have the ability to play safety (see story)

Ronald Darby (ankle) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist) were the other two Eagles who weren't practicing on Thursday. Darby is out for at least another few weeks with his dislocated ankle. 

Vaeao missed the Chiefs game and looks to be in danger of missing another week. In his absence, rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls played nine snaps and played well. Qualls could see his workload increase as the fourth DT against the Giants.

Eagles looking at safety options for Sunday vs. Giants

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USA Today Images

Eagles looking at safety options for Sunday vs. Giants

The Hamstrung Trio would make for a decent band name. 

It might be music to the Giants' ears. 

As practice kicked off at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, the Eagles were without three of their top options at safety. Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins all stood on the sideline and watched thanks to hamstring injuries they suffered during the Kansas City game (see Injury Update)

That left the Eagles with two healthy safeties: Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos. 

"You never know what's going to happen," Graham said. "You never know the situation. I would like to believe that out of three of us, at least one of us will be able to go. I'm hoping and praying that all three of us are not out (for Sunday's game). We're all just going to get enough treatment. At worst, hopefully, one of us will be ready to go."

Graham, 32, said he suffered his hamstring injury — he thinks — in the second quarter on Sunday and was able to play through the pain. It felt worse the next day. 

The 11-year NFL veteran has been incredibly durable during his career. In fact, he has played in 159 consecutive games (165 with playoffs). Only Pittsburgh's William Gay has a longer consecutive games streak than Graham. 

"That's out of my control obviously," Graham said. "I'm not going to go out there if I feel like I can't help us. But I'm also the type that I can play through some things. I always have in my career. I've had nicks and bruises, things like that. A hamstring is a little different. I've never had a hamstring injury in my life. It's not something I'm used to. My pain tolerance is pretty good though." 

Of the Hamstrung Trio, Graham is the most likely to be able to play on Sunday. But if all three are out, the Eagles will be in the same precarious situation they were in during the 27-20 loss to the Chiefs. 

During that game, Jim Schwartz approached linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and told him he was one more injury away from entering the game at safety. With the Eagles' numbers at safety still low, Grugier-Hill, mostly a special-teamer, thinks he might get some practice reps at safety later this week. 

"I'm excited. It's a great opportunity for me," he said. "But we want those guys who are injured to come back as soon as possible. I'm excited; they're preparing me for whatever and I'll be prepared for that." 

Before it gets to Grugier-Hill, it's likely special teams ace Maragos would get into the game. Under the former regime, Maragos wasn't completely relegated to special teams. While he played just one defensive snap in 2016, Maragos was on the field for 304 (25.1 percent) in 2015, the last year under Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. 

When the new coaching staff — Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz — arrived to town, they signed McLeod and clearly saw Maragos as a better fit on just special teams, where he has thrived throughout his career. Maragos took the demotion in stride and actually said it allowed him to focus most of his attention on what has made him so valuable in the NFL. 

"I got a lot of great experience on defense, which is great," he said. "Obviously, for me, I've kind of made a name for myself as a special teamer. Obviously, you run down 100 yards on kickoffs, it's a different type of mentality, it's a different type of win. But if I need to split time with my mindset on defense and special teams, it actually helped me those couple years back, in the event that if I need to do anything, I'll mentally know what to expect."

There will be at least three safeties on the field Thursday afternoon for practice. The Eagles claimed former Bills safety Trae Elston off waivers Wednesday, but it'll be a race to get him ready for Sunday (see story). It's hard to imagine him having a big role. 

So, the three options so far are Maragos, a linebacker, or a guy who wasn't with the team yesterday. Things don't look great. But for whatever reason, Malcolm Jenkins doesn't seem worried. At all (see story)

Jenkins even brought up a fourth option: moving a cornerback to safety. The Eagles often boast about the versatility of their safeties, their ability to also play corner. But Jenkins says it goes the other way too. He said the Eagles' safeties play like slot corners in the majority of their packages anyway and the team has plays where they'll rotate a corner to a deep defender, "which is in turn, the same thing as a safety." 

If the Eagles went with this option, moving a corner to safety, Jenkins recognizes that it would put more on his shoulders. He'd have to make sure everyone was lined up correctly and make the calls. But he thinks they could do it. 

"We've got options," Jenkins said. 

The best option would be to simply get back one member of the Hamstrung Trio back on the field. They're hoping to break up the band.