It isn’t just the 1-3 Eagles and 0-4 New York Giants’ losing records that have taken some of the steam out of Sunday’s matchup between the longtime divisional rivals.
“It’s sucks because Osi’s not there, so it makes it a little different,” LeSean McCoy said of Osi Umenyiora, his frequent sparring partner.
The former Giants defensive end is with the Falcons now. While Umenyiora isn’t what he once was, his absence from what was once the most feared line in the NFL has been symbolic for a unit that is struggling this season.
The Giants’ defense has accounted for a league-worst four sacks, with only three coming from the defensive line. End Jason Pierre-Paul, two years ago possibly the best defensive player in the NFL, hasn’t been the same since back surgery. His counterpart Justin Tuck is starting to show some wear and tear.
And the middle of the line has been battered. Defensive tackle Linvel Joseph will be sidelined for the game with a groin injury, and former Eagle Cullen Jenkins (knee) is listed as questionable. Shaun Rogers, former Eagle Mike Patterson, and rookie Johnathan Hankins will take their place on a line that hasn’t done much against the run either.
The 28th-ranked Giants are allowing 122.5 yards a game on the ground, which should be music to McCoy and the Eagles’ top-ranked run offense. McCoy has more rushing yards against the Giants (694) than any other opponent, has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of eight games, and the Eagles are 6-2 in those meetings.
“I think the guys on offense always kind of get that feeling when it’s Giants week, when it’s a division game. Especially myself — I consider myself one of the Giants’ favorite running backs,” McCoy said.
While the Eagles’ 198.3 rushing yards have been padded by Michael Vick’s scrambling, McCoy has had a splendid start to his fifth season. He’s run for 468 yards and two touchdowns on 78 carries (6.0 avg.) and has added seven catches for 140 yards. He’s on pace for 1,872 yards on the ground and 2,432 yards from scrimmage.
“It’s hard to care about stats when you’re not winning,” McCoy said earlier this week.
But the numbers show that McCoy has been lethal running up the middle in Chip Kelly’s offense, in which the zone-read runs often require him to run behind the Eagles’ interior blockers. McCoy is averaging 8.1 yards a carry up the middle.
The Giants haven’t been susceptible up the middle, allowing only 2.6 yards a carry. But they have struggled to slow down running backs when offenses run at the left side of their defense (4.8 avg.). McCoy is pretty good running to his left (6.0 avg.), and the strength of the Eagles offensive line are left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis.
One area in which McCoy hasn’t seen the ball much is in the red zone. The Eagles have converted only 5 of 12 possessions in the red zone, which is tied for 27th in the league.
Of the 29 plays the Eagles have run inside the 20, McCoy has gotten only five carries for 24 yards and one catch for 8 yards.
“I think if we eliminate all the small (mistakes) and we minimize that as much as possible, we’ll be fine, because I think getting there is not the problem,” McCoy said. “It’s actually finishing the drive off.”
McCoy missed a few opportunities in the red zone in the Eagles’ 52-20 loss to the Broncos last week because he said the Denver air had gotten to him. Backups Bryce Brown and Chris Polk spelled him, and Polk ran 4 yards for a score on one possession.
The air at MetLife Stadium in North Jersey should be thicker, if the atmosphere isn’t as intense as it usually is.
“Nobody can take Osi’s spot,” McCoy said. “There’s something special about him.”
Patrick Chung was limited at practice for the fourth straight day and was listed as questionable on the Eagles injury report.
Chung sat out against the Broncos with a shoulder contusion, and rookie Earl Wolff started in his place at safety. If he can’t go again, Kelly said Thursday that Wolff would start once again along with Nate Allen.
Cornerback Brandon Boykin was limited earlier in the week with a shoulder contusion, but was a full participant by week’s end and was listed as probable. Defensive end Fletcher Cox was a new addition to the report, but he was also listed as probable with a quadriceps injury.