By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With the Eagles coming off of a blowout loss to the Cardinals, and the Giants coming off of a blowout win over Carolina, it’s hard to feel confident in the Eagles chances on Sunday night.
But the Giants have had a history of inconcsistency during the regular season under Tom Coughlin, even during their two Super Bowl campaigns, so anything can happen.
I spoke with Paul Dottino, who covers the Giants for CBS New York and WFAN, about the Giants new running back sensation, Eli Manning, and the improving secondary.
Spike: The Giants secondary has struggled this year, until the Carolina game, where it seemed to come together. What was the difference in that game?
Paul: Well you’ve got a couple of factors there, but primarily it’s the pass rush. You know, when the pass rush is going well, every secondary in this league is going to be better. That was the primary reason. The other reason is, there’s no question that it was a big help to get Prince Amukamara back. I mean the guy’s a former number one draft pick, and any time you get somebody like that in the lineup, it’s going to bolster your talent level. Whether or not [Jaron] Hosley or [Michael] Coe are available this week, that’s kind of iffy, but having Prince back in the lineup certainly was a help.
Spike: Historically you don’t think of the Giants having a high powered, air-it-out sort of offense, but that’s what they’ve got. Once they get healthy, how good can this offense be?
Paul: They easily could be one of the top five offenses in this league. You know, when you start with Eli Manning, you’re already ahead of the curve. And then anything after that is a bonus. What he’s shown over the past couple of years in particular, is that he can get it done regardless of who is out there running the routes. It’s happened time and time again, I mean look at what happened last weekend. You know Ramses Barden, who basically had done nothing in four years here for the GIants, suddenly catches over a hundred yards in his first pro start. Why? Well I think a lot of that has to do with Eli Manning. Eli goes out of his way to almost become like an extra wide receivers or tight ends coach to these guys, more so than a regular quarterback would, and I think it pays dividends for him.
Spike: As good as Eli Manning has been in recent years, it seems like he’s taken another step this year.
Paul: You know I thought he had a career year last season, I thought it was his best season as a pro. I think only now is he hitting his prime. And so to expect what he’s done recently, you know what he did last year, I would expect that to continue for another three, four, five years. I think he just now in his prime. And he’s already been around eight years, and it just seems to me he still has got a long way to go yet [in his prime], it wouldn’t be unthinkable that he gets another ring or two before he retires.
Spike: Coughlin said Ahmad Bradshaw would start, but Andre Brown will still get carries. How do you see that playing out on Sunday?
Paul: I’m looking at that like a 60/40 split [in favor of Bradshaw], that’s just my educated guess. Bradshaw definitely is still the starter, he has not had an opportunity to run behind this reconstructed offensive line. Remember Bradshaw came out in the middle of the Tampa Bay game, and that was right around the time that David Dhiel came out at right tackle with a knee injury. And they had to reconstruct the line by moving Sean Locklear to the right side, and then Will Beatty came in and reclaimed his starting role as the left tackle. Since that time, the last six quarters, the Giants running game has been immeasurably better. Part of that is because the line is playing better because of this new configuration. Part of it, actually is that Andre Brown has really provided the spark. I think it’s probably more coincidental than anything, I’d like to see Bradshaw have a shot, and we’re going to see it on Sunday, to run behind this reconfigured offensive line, before I start getting on the bandwagon like so many people have in New York about Brown should somehow be getting more carries than Bradshaw. To me, that’s not even a debate until Bradshaw can have the opportunity to run behind these guys.
Spike: The Giants are playing well, and the Eagles are not. If the Giants lose this game on Sunday, how will it happen?
Paul: The Giants lose this game by giving up too many big plays to the Eagles offense. As much as the Eagles offense is struggling with turnovers and penalties, it seems to me that you can never discount their speed, and they’ve got big play capability at the tight end position, at the quarterback position, at the running back position and at wide receiver, I mean come on, all four skill positions on offense can make a big play at any time. If the Eagles are going to win this game, it’s going to be because they wound up making maybe three big, big plays that burn the Giants. I think the Giants are a better team up and down the roster. I think if this is just a sound, well played football game, the Giants will come out with a win. But the Eagles, with their big strike capability, they can always hurt you that way. It’s that knockout punch.