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Defensive Line Must Dominate Against New York

The New York Giants (1-5) will come to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night to face the Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1). Believe it or not, the winner of this game will take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East. A win for New York would put them at 2-5 with their two division wins being the tiebreaker. A win for Philadelphia would give them the best record in the division at 2-4-1. 

Football games always come down to the battle in the trenches. The biggest matchup that the Eagles must exploit this week is their defensive line against the lousy Giants’ offensive line. Jim Schwartz’s front seven has been one of the only bright spots of the team all year. Through six games, the Eagles have 21 sacks. Brandon Graham leads the teams with five sacks and Josh Sweat is right behind him with three. 

In order to win on Thursday, there must be constant pressure off of the edge. That is where the team has excelled. It has not only been Graham and Sweat getting pressure on the quarterback from the outside. Derrick Barnett has 2.5 sacks and Genard Avery has been winning his matchups against opposing tackles when given opportunities. 

The bottom line is that the pass rush must get to Daniel Jones before he can get the ball out of his hands. Evan Engram should win against a Philly linebacker on every single play. Lining up on the outside is Golden Tate and Darius Slayton who is listed as questionable. Sterling Shephard is eligible to come off of IR this week. 

The defensive ends and edge rushers are always getting one-on-one matchups. This is because of the effort at the defensive tackle position. The interior of Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson has been clogging up the middle. Cox draws double teams almost every play he is on the field. When off the field, one of Hargrave or Jackson will still draw a double team. 

Let's take a look at the matchup between the New York Giants offensive line and the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line. They have allowed 17 sacks in their six games played so far. Here is the offensive line listed from left to right. Joe Judge is still undecided whether or not rookie first-round pick Andrew Thomas will play. 

LT: Matt Peart, LG: Will Hernandez, C: Nick Gates, RG: Kevin Zeitler, RT: Cameron Fleming 

Matt Peart is a rookie third-round draft pick from the University of Connecticut. Peart would be filling the role of Andrew Thomas. Will Hernandez was the 34th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of UTEP. When healthy, Hernandez has started in every game as a Giant. Nick Gates was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2018 out of Nebraska. The biggest name and leader of this unit is Kevin Zeitler. He was acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr trade. While not many others have been productive, Zeitler was paving the way for Saquon Barkley. New York is Cameron Fleming’s third stop in the last four years. He has struggled mightily. 

The Eagles line up in a 4-3 with a lot of rotating done on the defensive line. On the edge, they have Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Vinny Curry. Meanwhile on the inside, they have Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, and Hassan Ridgeway. 

This is not only a mismatch from a talent perspective. This is a mismatch from a depth perspective. Philadelphia can substitute and play certain players like Graham at any spot on the line. If this defensive line dominates like it should on Thursday night, the Eagles will be back on top of the NFC East. 

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