Behind Enemy Lines Part I: Giants at Eagles

The Giants Beat Publisher Rick Laughland goes Behind Enemy Lines as asks WarNest publisher Justin Henry five burning questions heading into the New York Giants battle with Philadelphia Eagles.

Q:Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat-

QB Nick Foles was nearly perfect last season tossing 27 Tds and only two INTS. Through five games Foles already has 5 INTS, so what do you attribute to his increased this year? Is it the adjustments that defenses are making against him, the caliber of opponent or Foles' decision making not as crisp as in 2013?

A: Justin Henry | WarNest.com

I think Foles is clearly having issues with his mechanics. Maybe part of it is discomfort behind the offensive line, with inexperience dotting it due to injuries (namely center David Molk, in place of All-Pro caliber Jason Kelce), but Foles also has a hesitation to his motion. Chip Kelly swears it's fixable, and I believe it is as well, but it needs to happen soon. Four of the five picks have been on deep throws, so it's not as if he's making blind decisions underneath. He's under-thrown a few passes, and is also unleashing them when the receiver (usually Jeremy Maclin) is unable to get the inside track on the corner. A lack of patience, some mechanical flaws, and some discomfort behind the line all play a part in Foles' current regression.

Q:Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat-

LeSean McCoy is off to a surprisingly slow start after leading the league in rushing last year. Is this a product of the sub-par play of the offensive line, an injury, or a combination of factors?

A: Justin Henry | WarNest.com

I blame the line, absolutely. McCoy, by nature, is a patient runner that waits for the hole to open, dancing similarly to Barry Sanders. You'll see him try to bounce around to the outside, feet constantly in motion, even while standing in one spot, but there's nothing there. A number of times, defenders are in the backfield by the time he takes the hand-off, and no back can counter that. The pressure through the middle has been overwhelming at times, especially through Molk, Dennis Kelly, and Matt Tobin, all back-ups. With Lane Johnson back this past Sunday, McCoy was able to find space outside and make those quick strides, so the runs are starting to come back. Without Kelce and Evan Mathis until November, his reliable middle presence is absent. Kelce is the best second-level run-blocking center in the NFL, and Molk simply lacks the ability to plow through and get the seam McCoy needs through the middle. Now Darren Sproles is having more success, because he just hits the hole recklessly, and his compact body squirts through. McCoy is so ingrained on waiting for the lane to open, and because of the line issues, that's hurt him.

Q:Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat-

The Eagles defense didn't garner much respect last year, but has been opportunistic in 2014 by creating several scoring plays. What players on the defensive side of the ball stand out to you and how has their play help elevate the entire defensive unit?

A: Justin Henry | WarNest.com

Malcolm Jenkins has been an incredible signing from New Orleans. The Eagles haven't had an alpha-male safety since Brian Dawkins left after 2008, and Jenkins has been everything the Eagles could have asked for. Jenkins not only plays the run expertly, but has all three of the team's interceptions, stepping up in the fourth quarter as well as slot corner hero Brandon Boykin. Trent Cole's having a renaissance year at 32, taking to his linebacker conversion from a year ago better than I would have guessed. Not only is Cole maintaining his pass rusher status, but he's been tremendous against the run as well. He's also forced three fumbles in five games, two of which ended up as defensive touchdowns. One of those beneficiaries, defensive end Fletcher Cox, is one of the best 3-4 run stoppers in the game today, making 13 stops behind the line across five games. He's just a big a part of any defensive success the team has, even if he doesn't make headlines.

Q:Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat-

How much of a boost has Darren Sproles provided in the passing game, running game and on special teams? Even at 31-years-old he seems like a guy that can do it all and the perfect Chip Kelly type player. Is he the Eagles MVP so far this year?

A: Justin Henry | WarNest.com

Sproles gets far too few touches to truly be the MVP, but he's a menace when he's fully used. That Colts game was something else, catching seven passes for over 150 yards, and breaking three tackles on a touchdown run. His punt return capabilities, naturally, are a big boost to the team (special teams overall have been an immense lift). As I mentioned before, his running style is mostly unaffected by the line's injury downgrade, so there's hope that he'd be used more, but Kelly's content to keep trying McCoy in the hopes that 'Shady' finds his groove over the next month, until the line's starters are fully back. When Sproles gets the ball, though, he remains lethal.

Q:Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat-

Has this team missed the loss of DeSean Jackson? What player(s) has been counted on to fill the void left by Jackson?

A: Justin Henry | WarNest.com

While the team does miss his ability to outrun corners one-on-one, his attitude isn't missed. Kelly looks for character guys (Jenkins, Sproles, Chris Maragos among the March moves, all natural leaders), and Jackson's me-first-ism didn't jive with the team image. Maclin has stepped up as an incredible down-field receiver, topping 400 yards already with four touchdowns. I shudder to think how good the 2013 team could have been had Maclin been able to play. Rookie Jordan Matthews has shown lots of promise as a slot receiver, having a big game against the Redskins (two touchdowns), but he's still some time away from hitting his full potential, still very raw. At the tight end spot, Zach Ertz has had a few big games this season, and is the sort of outsize downfield threat that Jason Witten has been in Dallas. Like Matthews, he's still developing, but I predict he'll be among the best tight ends in the league before too long.


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