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Eagles vs. Giants: Four biggest matchups

Eliot Shorr-Parks
October 11, 2018 - 5:00 am

The Eagles will try to avoid losing their third-straight game on Thursday night when they take on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. 

It really is this simple for the Eagles — win and save their season, or lose and start looking at 2019. 

So how can the Eagles avoid falling into a 2-4 hole?

Here are four key matchups for Thursday night:

Jalen Mills vs. Odell Beckham Jr.: Thursday night is a huge game for cornerback Jalen Mills. Coming off of two games in which he has caught the majority of the heat for the issues in the secondary, Mills now heads into primetime against arguably the toughest receiver to cover in the NFL. 

Mills has experience against Beckham, as the two go back to their days at LSU and have matched up multiple times in the NFL. The results for Mills on Beckham have been mixed at best. Beckham caught two touchdowns against Mills in 2016, when the cornerback was asked to travel with and cover Beckham for the entire game. Beckham caught two touchdowns in his only matchup against the Eagles in 2017 as well. 

The chances of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz moving his cornerbacks around from side-to-side are slim. That means the Giants will be able to match Beckham up against Mills as much as they want. It will be up to Mills to try to hold his own. 

John Greco vs. Fletcher Cox: The Giants’ offensive line is a mess all over, but they might be their weakest up the middle, and that starts with center John Greco. 

Greco is only starting for the Giants because of a season-ending injury to Jon Halapio. Greco, who has been with four teams in 12 seasons, is arguably one of the worst starting centers in the NFL. Greco has allowed seven pressures on the quarterback in just five games, according to Pro Football Focus. Only eight centers in the NFL have allowed more despite the fact Greco hasn’t been playing the entire season. 

Needless to say, Cox doesn’t need to just win his matchup against Greco, he needs to — and should be able to — dominate. 

Nate Solder vs. Michael Bennett: One of the reasons the Giants went out and overpaid for left tackle Nate Solder was they — correctly — realized they needed to do a better job protecting the quarterback. Solder has not played at the level of his salary — $34.8 million in guarantees — but he has been adequate. Pro Football Focus has Solder down for nine hurries in five games, which is 35th in the NFL among tackles. 

Solder should spend a good portion of the game matched up against defensive end Michael Bennett, who despite a bad roughing the passer call, is coming off of arguably his best game of the season. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a history of throwing the ball up against the Eagles, as he has more interceptions against the Eagles in his career than he does any other team in the NFL. 

Eagles’ O-Line vs. Giants D-Line: No unit better represents the 2018 Eagles than their offensive line. The Eagles’ offensive line has the talent to be the best in the NFL. They dominated in 2017. They brought back the same five starters. 

Something, much like has been the case with the entire team, just hasn’t been right. 

Offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who heading into this season was arguably the best tackle in the entire league, is third in the NFL in pressures allowed. He has been directly responsible for two strip-sacks on quarterback Carson Wentz. Left tackle Jason Peters has been almost as bad. Left guard Stefen Wisniewsi, although unfairly, was benched. So far the Eagles have only been able to rely on center Jason Kelce and right guard Brandon Brooks. 

The good news for the Eagles’ offensive line is that they have a great chance to turn things around on Thursday night. The Giants’ pass rush is completely absent of any elite pass rushers, and that is true even if outside linebacker Olivier Vernon does make his season debut. The Giants are 31st in the NFL in sacks heading into Thursday night. 

The Eagles’ offensive line has been the biggest issue with the team so far this season. That needs to change on Thursday night. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at [email protected]!

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