By Curt Macysyn
The Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) had every right to believe that their team should have Super Bowl aspirations in 2014. After all, Philadelphia was the defending NFC East champions, as they headed into year two of head coach Chip Kelly’s tenure in the NFL. The team was flying high after a Thanksgiving Day 33-10 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys in Texas, but they came crashing back to Earth as three straight losses torpedoed a promising season and knocked the Birds out of the playoffs.
This week the Eagles head back to MetLife Stadium to face the streaking New York Giants (6-9), who showed character and fight in defeating the Rams 37-27 last week in St. Louis. Backup quarterback Mark Sanchez will get the start for Philadelphia in place of an injured Nick Foles, while the Giants will be without promising rookie linebacker Devon Kennard on Sunday.
New York Giants
It is no coincidence that the New York Giants have played better since there has been an injection of youth into the line-up. The youth movement was necessitated by injuries to veterans, some of whom happened to be dead wood in the starting line-up anyway. Defensive end Kerry Wynn was thrust into a starting role after Mathias Kiwanuka and Roberts Ayers were lost for the season with injuries. Kiwanuka was graded an overall (-18.3) by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for the G-men before he was injured, which ranked him next-to-last for defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme in the league. All Wynn did last week was achieve the Lawrence Taylor hat trick, when he recovered a fumble, registered a quarterback sack and intercepted a pass in the win against St. Louis. Not coincidentally, he attained the highest grade among defensive players with a (+2.1) by PFF.
Rookie Andre Williams has seen the bulk of the action at running back lately, since Rashad Jennings has battled injuries for a good part of the season. Jennings is listed as probable this week, but take that listing with a grain of salt. Williams has been durable, despite the fact that he would rather run through every tackler rather than around them. This week, Williams has been nursing shoulder injury and has been listed as questionable for the game. Another rookie, Orleans Darkwa, would stand to see more snaps if Williams cannot play on Sunday. Darkwa had a nice 12-yard touchdown run against the Rams on Sunday.
A trio of linebackers also make the injury report. Middle linebacker Jameel McClain has been dealing with a balky knee for most of the season, and he is listed as probable, but rest assured, he will play on Sunday. Rookie Devon Kennard sustained a toe injury and missed practice all week. Because Kennard cannot play that means more repetitions for Mark Herzlich at linebacker, and also defensive coordinator Perry Fewell may try to utilize more three safety sets. Paul Hazel has been a recent pickup for Big Blue, and he has played special teams. Rookie linebacker James Davidson will likely get the call if Hazel is sidelined.
The Eagles ruled out quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) early in the week. There was no reason to take a risk with Foles’ health in a meaningless game, so Mark Sanchez gets the start for the Birds. Sanchez called MetLife Stadium home for four seasons with the New York Jets.
According to Rueben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, “Casey Matthews returned to practice Thursday after missing practice Wednesday to attend the birth of his son, Braylon.” Matthews, brother of Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, had replaced DeMeco Ryans in an interior linebacking position for the Eagles.
Cornerback Bradley Fletcher shows up as questionable on the report with a hip injury, and he has given up big plays on the outside for the Eagles recently. Given his injury and poor play, it would make sense for Philadelphia to give Nolan Carroll a shot to slow down the Giants passing attack. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks missed the first contest between these teams with a calf injury, and he now has an ankle injury. Kendrick will likely give it a go on Sunday.
NEW YORK GIANTS
LB Paul Hazel (Hamstring)
RB Rashad Jennings (Ankle)
Jameel McClain (Knee)
RB Andre Williams (Shoulder)
LB Devon Kennard (Toe)
LB Mychal Kendricks (Ankle)
LB Casey Matthews (No Injury)
CB Bradley Fletcher (Hip)
QB Nick Foles (Collarbone)
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.