Hidden Keys to the Eagles-Giants Game

Hidden Keys to the Eagles-Giants Game

We've talked about some of the more obvious aspects of the game.  Let's face it, like both teams are familiar with one another, we too have a good idea of how these games usually play out and some of the tendencies of the New York Giants.

Besides stellar individual performances from the game's playmakers, there are always a few overlooked aspects that push the odds in one team's favor.  So what sort of football-type stuff will be the difference between winning and losing?  A breakdown after the jump.

Time of Possession

We already touched on this, but didn't really explain why it's so important.  In Week 10, the Giants perpetrated one of the most lopsided 36-31 victories in the history of the NFL.  I'm really not interested in how the Eagles almost won the game because they certainly didn't deserve it.

New York imposed its will all night, rushing for almost 6 yards a clip and controlling the ball just short of 40 minutes.  Think about that.  Two-thirds of the game, the Giants had the ball.  They set the pace, which contributed to the Eagles frantic Reidball gameplan.  They wore down a defense that had already failed to stop the running game from the outset. 

The Eagles don't necessarily need to win time of possession, but it must be near even or they won't win.  It's that simple.  If the Giants are dominating the clock, that means A) the defense isn't getting off the field on third down, and B) too many three-and-outs for the offense.  That's a recipe for losing.

Field Position Battle

This may be the biggest factor for the Eagles to be successful on Sunday.  One reason why they beat the Vikings were two drives where they started pinned inside their own 20, but were able to pick up a few first downs and reach midfield.  Both trips ended in punts, but they reversed the field position and forced Minnesota to go the distance.

They cannot punt from their own territory often and expect to keep the Giants from scoring.  For one, Sav Rocca struggled mightily to punt even one decent ball in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands earlier this season, so they can't rely on the kicker to change their fortunes.

On each possession, the offense must move the chains a few times and at least put their defense in a favorable position to keep the other team off the board.  The Giants are not as effective in the red zone, but they walk off the field with 3 more often than not, so putting them on the 50 is like giving away points.

Fred Robbins v. Eagles Interior Linemen

The player who scares me the most is not Brandon Jacobs, it's DT Fred Robbins.  In game two, the Eagles catalyst for victory was a strong day running the football.  What fell by wayside in Philly was the fact that Robbins was not 100%.

I'm not sure how many Eagles fans are familiar with Robbins' work, but he is probably the most underrated player in this match-up.  Robbins is a Pro Bowl caliber lineman who clogs running lanes and adds pressure on the quarterback.  He sets the tone for the D line, the kind of player that could see the attention of multiple blockers, creating one-on-one for the ends.

If Robbins is healthy, for the second week in a row Westbrook may find holes lacking, and whenever that's the case there is always the chance Reidball will return.  This will be the most interesting battle on the field come 1 pm, because it has the greatest potential to sway the coach's gameplan and ultimately alter the final outcome of the game.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he runs aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

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USA Today inage

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

Temple head coach Geoff Collins on Monday added two new members to his coaching staff.

Keith Gaither will take over as the wide receivers’ coach and Kyle Lane is the new video coordinator. 

Gaither comes to Temple with 21 years of coaching experience. He spent last season as Army's wide receivers coach. Prior to that, he spent time with Tusculum College (1998-99), Thomasville City Schools (2000-04), Winston-Salem State (2005-08), Elon (2009-10) and Ball State (2010-14).

Gaither spent his collegiate career at Elon, where he was a four-year starter and voted all-region at defensive end before graduating in 1997. Collins originally had retained Frisman Jackson from the 2016 staff, but Jackson was hired by the Tennessee Titans. 

Lane is a Temple alum who spent time with Kansas during the 2016 season as its assistant video coordinator.