Key matchup: Giants defense vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy

Eric Edholm
Key matchup: Giants defense vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy vs. Giants defense

The Eagles have stressed this week that they need to be more balanced. In Andy Reid’s mind, balanced could entail a “60-40 or 70-30” split for the pass-run ratio (Reid's words this week), not the industry-standard 50-50 when using that definition.

No matter what the division, RB LeSean McCoy has to be used more wisely. Not only more often, but also earlier in games.

In Week One, McCoy had only seven first-half carries (but gained 50 yards with them) as the Eagles attempted 28 passes, not counting the two sacks Michael Vick took. The Eagles led that game 10-3 at the half, but Reid’s love of the passing game turned troublesome. The subsequent five possessions went like this: punt, interception, punt, interception, interception.

Week Two's start was far better: McCoy ran the ball 14 times for 52 very productive yards in that the Eagles possessed the ball for nearly seven minutes longer in the first half than the Ravens did. In the second half, McCoy had 11 more carries and two receptions — nearly even touch distribution per half — and the Eagles won their most impressive performance of the season.

But things went backwards in Week Three, as Reid and the Eagles couldn’t shed their skin. Three passes (all short) and four carries were all that McCoy got the ball in the first half, and the Cardinals built an insurmountable 24-0 lead. Vick attempted 19 passes, with many of them coming in the two-minute offense, which translated to more of an up-tempo passing game.

But still, the fact that McCoy was not involved in the three plays from the Cardinals’ 1-yard line at the end of the half was a travesty. Vick was sacked and fumbled on third and goal — wasting a timeout at the start of the second quarter put them in a pass-only situation — which led to a TD the other way. By the time McCoy got the ball in that game, it was all but over.

The Eagles know they must use their best offensive player more smartly in Sunday night’s game against the Giants. Not only can he help keep the Giants’ explosive passing game off the field, but he also can make tacklers miss and help slow down the Giants’ pass rush. With two reserve offensive linemen potentially playing (if King Dunlap is hurt, and really, he’s a reserve who starts because of injury anyway) against a great Giants front, the Eagles probably don’t want them pass blocking more than they have to. Otherwise, Vick (who took five sacks and was hit 13 times Sunday against the Cardinals) might get killed.

The Giants feature a fast-flow, aggressive defense. They will come after you, but in doing so there often are running lanes to be exposed. The Giants have become more disciplined for the most part in this regard, but DeMarco Murray and DeAngelo Williams each have scooted through for yards after contact. The defense is balanced because it often features an extra safety (either Will Hill or Stevie Brown) or an athletic linebacker (Jacquian Williams) on the field who is agile enough to run down speed but physical enough to take on power.

The past two weeks, the run defense has been good. Tampa Bay's Doug Martin never got started, and though the Panthers' rushing statistics are misleading somewhat because they fell down so much so quickly (and because Jonathan Stewart was out), the Giants did a respectable job for the most part.