Who Stepped Up and Who Stepped Back for Eagles vs. Giants
It's too early to jump to conclusions of course. This was a good win but let's not forget that the Giants were 0-4 and have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Still, this was a good win with long-term playoff implications, and the Eagles not only advance to 2-3 but also currently hold a 2-0 divisional record. And with a very winnable game coming up against the winless Buccaneers, the Eagles could potentially build some momentum leading up to their Week 7 showdown with Dallas.
Who stepped up against the Giants and who stepped back? It's been a while since I've done one of these and there were so many contributors. But I've managed to narrow the list down to five players who played well and five players and units who still need some work.
1. Stepped Up: Nick Foles
He wasn't always completely sharp, most notably overthrowing a wide open Riley Cooper in the end zone. But Foles stepped up big when Michael Vick went down and played pretty much as well as you could expect from a backup quarterback.
Foles went 16-of-25 for 197 yards and two touchdowns in an overall solid performance. But most notably, Foles impressed during the last drive of the first half, where he went 7-of-8 for 68 yards in less than a minute and a half to get the Eagles into field-goal range.
If Vick can't go against the Bucs, Eagles fans shouldn't be too worried. They seem to have a more-than-serviceable backup in Foles.
2. Stepped Up: DeSean Jackson
If this article were written after the first quarter, DeSean Jackson would not have made this list due to all his drops. But Jackson quickly rebounded and turned in a dominant performance.
Jackson accounted for seven receptions, 132 yards and a touchdown.
He is becoming more of a complete receiver, no longer just a deep threat. Jackson showed his ability to get behind the defense, but also to get open for short routes. After an inconsistent few seasons Jackson is re-emerging as one of the top 10 receivers in the NFL.
Just five games into the 2013 season, Jackson already has 525 yards and is currently third in the NFL in receiving yards.
3. Stepped Up: Brandon Boykin
Boykin is perhaps one of this team's most unheralded heroes. He showed solid coverage at the nickel and recorded one tackle, one pass deflection and one interception. Against Boykin, Victor Cruz was also limited to just 48 yards.
But his interception was perhaps the best play of the game. Eli Manning's pass hit Cruz in the hands, but Boykin was able to wrestle it from Cruz's grasp and somehow maintain possession while falling to the floor.
Boykin is clearly emerging as one of the bright spots in this Eagles secondary. If he can turn in more performances like yesterday's, it would be one less hole to worry about in the Eagles' swiss cheese defense.
4. Stepped Up: Cedric Thornton
Similar to Boykin, Cedric Thornton might be one of the most underrated players on the Eagles roster.
He was disruptive on the defensive line and recorded four tackles and one tackle for loss.
Most notably, Thornton should have forced a safety on David Wilson, but the officials made a questionable call and failed to see the football move Wilson made in the end zone.
Thornton's play may have gone unnoticed by most observers, but certainly not by the opposing team. He is one of the most consistent pass-rushers on the team.
5. Stepped Up: Mychal Kendricks
Somehow, someway, Mychal Kendricks just seems to know where to be at the right time. This was most evident by his interception, where Manning's pass was tipped into the air and landed right in Kendricks' hands.
Kendricks made plays all over the field on Sunday, contributing four tackles and one pass deflection.
He's been a great play-making linebacker so far and excellent when used as a blitzer. Let's see if Kendricks can continue to improve as the season goes on.
1. Stepped Back: The Right Side of the O-Line
The Eagles offensive line, while it didn't play poorly, was also not great. Most notably, the right side of the line had some issues, particularly with run-blocking.
Growing pains were evident, as Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson struggled to generate significant push and open up lanes for LeSean McCoy.
This O-line is not a poor one, but it is far from dominant and will need to improve to help keep drives going. Better run-blocking is a must to put McCoy in a better position to make plays.
2. Stepped Back: Defensive Line
While there were some bright spots, such as pressure being generated late by Vinny Curry and some good plays made by Cedric Thornton, for most of the game Eli Manning had far too much time in the pocket.
The Eagles did not generate as much pressure as they should have against the Giants and Manning often had time to find open receivers downfield. This team should consider mixing it up, such as playing Curry and Brandon Graham more in obvious passing situations to generate more pass rush.
Otherwise, better teams will pick this weak secondary apart all day long.
3. Stepped Back: Cary Williams
Cary Williams may have had a pick, but Manning practically threw it right into his hands.
For most of the game, Williams allowed catches and let receivers get free in press coverage. He may have had 11 tackles, but that was partially because receptions were made against him.
Williams has a fat contract, being guaranteed $10.5 million over the first two seasons, but he has yet to live up to the lofty expectations.
4. Stepped Back: Earl Wolff
Early Wolff is a rookie, so fans shouldn't be too harsh on him. Growing pains are to be expected. Still, Wolff often looks lost out there and out of place.
He seems like a solid tackler overall, but he is a liability in pass coverage. Most notably, he was in prime position to defend a pass from Manning to Reuben Randle and failed to time his jump properly, allowing the touchdown.
Wolff may someday develop into a good player—he does show flashes of brilliance—but the Eagles need Patrick Chung back as soon as possible. And Chung is not even that reliable of a player.
5. Stepped Back: Jason Avant
For a player who has the reputation as the team's most sure-handed receiver, Jason Avant was not exactly reliable against the Giants.
He had two drops, both of which were not perfect throws but were catchable balls. And for most of the game, he failed to generate any significant separation.
Avant has been a bit of a disappointment this season. When Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season due to injury, it opened up opportunity for the rest of the receiving corps to step up. So far, only DeSean Jackson has truly capitalized on this.
Avant has only 15 catches so far this season. He's still a reliable option when targeted due to his hands, but maybe the Eagles should think about rotating Damaris Johnson in at times to add more explosiveness to the passing offense.
Follow Yueh Ho on Twitter @YuehHo