The New York Giants know their success Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles will come down to the trenches and how the offensive line holds up against the NFL’s sack leaders.
“They’re really good,” coach Brian Daboll said Tuesday of Philly’s pass rush. “They’re hard to block. They can stop the run. They got a lot of really good players. They use them well. They’re a challenge to block. On the perimeter, they’re a challenge with the tackles. And inside, they’re a challenge.”
The Eagles generated 70 sacks this season to lead the league, third-most in NFL history (1984 Bears, 72; 1989 Vikings, 71). Jonathan Gannon’s defense became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have 15 more sacks than the next closest team (Kansas City, 55). Philly brings waves of pressure, starting with Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat (returning from injury), Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and more.
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“It definitely starts with how many guys they have,” Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas said, per the team’s website. “Most teams, they have a premier pass rusher, and they have a rotation of guys after that. They have guys that rotate that would start on other teams. That obviously just lets you know the talent level. Their coaches do a good job with scheme. They don’t just straight rush all the time. They run different schemes depending on which D-tackle is in. That makes a difference, too.”
The Eagles were the first team in NFL history with four players with 10-plus sacks in a season (Reddick, 16.0; Sweat, 11.0; Hargrave, 11.0; and Graham, 11.0). Philly was the only team with five players at 35-plus QB pressures this season. The Eagles had 50 sacks and a 10.9 sack percentage when using four or fewer pass rushers this season, both of which are NGS-era single-season records.
“It’s crazy,” Thomas said of the 34-year-old Graham. “It’s like he’s got the fountain of youth or something.”
The Giants’ offensive line has been markedly better this season than in previous years, thanks mainly to Thomas becoming one of the best blindside blockers in the NFL.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Andrew,” Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said. “I think he’s been rock solid. Like anybody playing that position, early on there’s some things you’ve got to learn, but I thought he learned them quickly and there’s no one playing at a higher level right now at that position in the league. Huge credit to him, he’s an unbelievable player. If you saw how he works and how he approaches every day, you wouldn’t be surprised.”
Thomas is a rock, but elsewhere the Giants have struggled to protect, most notably rookie right tackle Evan Neal has been through the wringer in his first season.
In their Week 14 meeting against Philly, the Giants gave up seven sacks, including four on Jones, before he sat the fourth quarter of the blowout. Jones was pressured on 34.7 percent of his dropbacks in the regular season, the fourth-most in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats.
In Sunday’s playoff win against Minnesota, Jones got the ball out on time and used his legs to keep the Vikings off balance and negate some of the pass rush. Jones has been among the NFL’s better QBs under pressure, finishing the regular season as one of two qualified QBs with 0 INTs under pressure (Titans QB Ryan Tannehill). Jones went 7-of-11 for 76 yards under pressure in Week 14 versus Philly.
How Jones performs Saturday night when the Eagles get pressure with four rushers will tell the tale of which NFC East team moves on to the NFC Championship Game.
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