After a two-week layoff, the Philadelphia Eagles are finally back, laying their season on the line against the young and upstart New York Giants. Philly has been expected to get here all season long, but the Giants have far outperformed their preseason expectations. A new chapter in this storied rivalry will be written on Saturday night, but before kickoff, I wanted to look at some players who could have their hand in writing where this tale goes.
Perhaps the most talked about storyline in Eagles nation throughout the last month is just how healthy is Jalen Hurts. It’s been over a month since the original injury and the team has been very careful with disclosing what their game plan will be for him in this game.
In week 18, you could tell that Hurts wasn’t fully recovered, but he hasn’t appeared on the injury report in over a week, so he may be as close to 100% as you’re going to get this time of year. If Hurts can perform like we know he’s capable, the Eagles can handily win this game. Only time will tell what Jalen’s ability is for Saturday night.
The other quarterback in this matchup is 4th-year player Daniel Jones. The 6th overall pick in 2019 has certainly been underwhelming for the majority of his Giants career but has leaped in 2022. Along with new head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Jones has steadily improved as the season has gone on.
This all culminated last week when Jones had the best game of his life against the Vikings in the wild-card round. Jones always could run the ball, but he has eliminated the turnovers from his game and is evolving before our eyes as a thrower of the football. I don’t believe that he’ll be able to recreate the Minnesota game because the Eagles have a much better defense. However, if New York seriously wants to pull an upset, it will have to be done off Jones’ arm.
Before the season started, Eagles fans knew that Reddick was going to be a good player, but I don’t think most recognized the game-changing impact that he can have on a defense. This year, Reddick became the pass rusher to have 10 or more sacks in 3 seasons with 3 different teams.
He set career highs in sacks with 16, and forced fumbles, with 5. Because of the plethora of additions the Eagles made in the off-season, Reddick got somewhat lost in the shuffle. However, he has been just as important to the defense as AJ Brown is for the offense. This is also Reddick’s first playoff game and he’ll be wanting to come out and make his mark on his hometown team.
The Giants’ best all-around player might be defensive tackle, Dexter Lawrence. He was New York’s second first-round pick in 2019 behind Jones and much like him, has taken a while to reach his potential. Under new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, Lawrence has flourished.
This was the first year that he was used almost exclusively on the inside of the defensive line and it immediately paid off. He set a career-high in forced fumbles, sacks, and tackles this year, wreaking havoc along offensive lines all year. The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the league so it may be hard for Lawrence to find his footing, but he is one of the players that gives them a chance.
When the Eagles went down to Tampa for the playoffs last year, Smith was one of the players that needed to show out for them to have a chance. That did not happen, as he went the majority of the first half with no catches and almost all of his 60 yards were in garbage time after the game was already decided.
I think after Hurts, Smith is the next candidate that’s due to make up from last year. He won’t have the pressure of having to carry the offense because of AJ Brown’s presence and that will open the door for more opportunities for him. In his first home playoff game, I think Smith shines as the leading receiver.