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Sent: 11-03-16

E-GIANTS
Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.

GIANTS-EAGLES LOOMS CRUCIAL TO BOTH NFC EAST OPPONENTS,
EVEN WITH A ROOKIE QUARTERBACK

By Dave Klein
The last time the Giants swept their two-game series with the Philadelphia Eagles was in the 2007 season - when they went on to win Super Bowl 42.

Even four years later, when they once again beat the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, they did no better than to split with the Eagles during the regular season.

Currently, they have lost four in a row, five of six and Sunday they'll try to uphold their favored status (by a skimpy 2 points, or roughly one cheesesteak) in a game with significant importance to both teams, currently tied at 4-3 for second in the NFC East behind Jerry Jones and his Cowboys.

And to make matters even more appealing, the Eagles enter this game with a rookie quarterback (the second overall pick in the draft) named Carson Wentz, who has impressed scouts in every game he has played, win or lose - and he has played, and started, in each and every one of them.

But there is this about rookie quarterbacks, and nobody ever explained it better than the Giants' All-World linebacker, Lawrence Taylor. "They haven't seen anything like what we can bring," he said. "We're bigger and we're faster and we know this game better. A rookie quarterback is doomed. He's going to see things he's never seen before. He'll make a few mistakes."

Indeed. But do the Giants have the defensive players to take advantage of those mistakes made by the 6-5, 240-pound kid from North Dakota State? Granted, they don't have L.T. or anyone like him. Nor do they have Carl Banks or Leonard Marshall or most of the other defensive guys who once roamed the field in Giants' uniforms.

But there are some bright pinpoints of light, such as defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, defensive tackles Jonathan Hankins and Snacks Harrison, a secondary that offers cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins and, well, a few others.

What the Giants also have is defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who boasts a creative defensive mind and who isn't afraid to offer creative solutions to problems. He has used four defensive ends on the line; he has had two defensive backs blitz from the edge; he has instructed his ends on pass coverage while brining linebackers into the box to plug the run.

(A question begs to be asked here: If the Giants' defense is so threatening, why is the record so mediocre? Just asking.)

Spagnuolo feels strongly that all four teams in the division are capable of winning. "Dallas has gotten better and better since we played them [and won in the opener]. They are more confident. Washington is winning games. And Philadelphia? That's a good team. I am impressed with the rookie quarterback. I really am. I didn't know what to expect from him and I think they are happy with what he's doing."

But does Spagnuolo have anything special, something the kid from North Dakota State has yet to see? He just smiled. Coaches don't give anything away on the eve of a crucially important game.

"But you know," he added, "the kid doesn't look like a rookie to me. He really doesn't. Not the way he functions. I'll give you one thing - he throws the ball as good going to his left as I have ever seen a right-handed quarterback do it. He's really well coached. I didn't see any of his college games because I didn't have to study him, but obviously he won a lot of games. He is really good."

The bad news involving the Giants' defense is that starting rookie free safety Darian Thompson re-injured his foot, did not practice Thursday and is highly unlikely to be activated for Sunday. "We had hoped to have the full secondary back," said Spagnuolo, but now not only Thompson but reserve safety Nat Berhe (concussion protocol) are likely out, giving the nod at free safety to undrafted rookie (5-11, 200) Andrew Adams.

Thompson was the only one who did not participate in practice, but seven were seven listed as limited. They were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., (hip), Berhe, long-snapper Zak DeOssie (ankle), backup quarterback Ryan Nassib (right elbow), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), running back Bobby Rainey (calf) and defensive end Kerry Wynn (concussion).

But the truth is that the Eagles have a far better and more effective running game than the Giants, and that tends to make things less stressful for the quarterback, rookie or otherwise. "He's a good one," says Vernon, who hopes to continue his performance of the last few games and prove he was worth all the money he was paid as an Unrestricted Free Agent. "He has made some good throws that you wouldn't expect from a rookie. He plays like he's been in the league a few years already."

Once again, beware unexpected praise, especially if you are a rookie quarterback.

The spread dropped to two points overnight, but still in favor of the Giants, and a victory would put them at 5-3 and drop the Eagles to 4-4.

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

NOW - Send a request to davesklein@aol.com for a free week's worth of news!

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