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Eagles' preview: Giants quarterback has the speed, but do Eagles respect him?

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

No doubt, the Eagles were still struck by the speed of quarterback Daniel Jones when they watched film of their Oct. 22 game against the Giants this week.

They remember Jones bursting through the line, then outrunning defensive backs 80 yards down the field. The only thing that stopped Jones was Jones. He tripped and fell at the Eagles' 8-yard line. The Giants scored a few plays later.

Jones was clocked by the NFL's NextGen stats at 21.23 mph, the fastest by a quarterback carrying the ball – yes, even faster than Baltimore's Lamar Jackson – in two years.

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The Eagles, of course, should be familiar enough with Jones. They play the Giants twice each season as NFC East opponents, and that first game was only 3½ weeks ago.

The two teams play again this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Giants' Daniel Jones (8) fumbles the ball late in the fourth quarter to seal an Eagles' victory Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pa.

"It was surprising," cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc said. "But I gotta see that a couple more times. You gotta do that about five more times for me to believe that. He was rolling. He was definitely picking his knees up. He was running so fast, he even fell himself.

"So he definitely shocked me by reaching – what was it? 21.2? – or something like that. We’ve played Lamar Jackson. We’ve played Daniel. We played a lot of mobile quarterbacks in the past. That doesn’t change how we play, or how we see things, or attack opponents."

Added defensive tackle Malik Jackson: "I think he shocked all of us with his speed. I’m glad he fell down."

Yet before that first game, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, when asked about Jones as a quarterback, replied: "Well, he is their leading rusher."

The comment made it seem like the Eagles didn't respect Jones as a passer.

Asked this week about Jones again, Schwartz replied dryly: "Hopefully you won't see us give up any 90-yard runs to the quarterback this week. But I'm sure they are going to test us on that, so we have to be up to that challenge."

Jones is the Giants' leading rusher, with 320 yards. He's ahead of Wayne Gallman, who has 222, and Devonta Freeman, who has 172. Freeman is headed to injured reserve and won't play Sunday.

The Giants also don't have star running back Saquon Barkley, who's out for the season with a torn ACL.

So the Eagles can expect Jones to try to make some plays both in the running game and in the passing game.

Eagles' Carson Wentz (11) loses the ball against the Giants Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pa.

The Eagles could have an advantage in the passing game, even with Carson Wentz leading the NFL in turnovers with 16 (12 interceptions, four fumbles lost) and in getting sacked (32). Wentz is completing just 58.8% of his passes and is ranked next to last in passer rating at 73.2.

But the Eagles have emerging stars Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor and running back Miles Sanders returning after missing the previous two games.

Jones hasn't been much better than Wentz. He has a rating of 76.1, with eight TD passes and nine interceptions. He has completed 62.4% of his passes.

The Giants have to answer the question of whether Jones is their quarterback of the future or if they should take someone like Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields if they have a chance in the 2021 NFL draft.

Then again, the Giants might be 2-7, but they've had leads of at least 11 points in each of their last three games. Against the Eagles, the Giants led 21-10 with 6 minutes left before the Eagles rallied for a 22-21 win.

As Eagles coach Doug Pederson pointed out: "Quite frankly, they had us beat."

Yet the Giants have lost two of those games, to the Eagles and Buccaneers. They had a 17-point lead against Washington and held on to win by only 3.

Perhaps that's why the Eagles still are wary, but not fearful, of Jones. 

"I think he has great management of the game, and I think he has a good long ball, and he knows where he wants to go with the ball," Jackson said. "I think the only down thing for that kid are the interceptions and fumbles."

Giants' Golden Tate III (15) makes a reception for a touchdown over Eagles' Cre'Von LeBlanc (34) in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

Not so Golden Tate

Golden Tate has had his issues with the Giants, beginning in 2019 with a PED suspension, and then recently when he and his wife publicly criticized his perceived lack of passes thrown his way.

Giants coach Joe Judge told Tate to stay home last Sunday in the game against Washington. Tate was set to return against the Eagles, whom he burned for a 39-yard TD catch in the first game, before suffering an injury in practice Thursday that leaves him questionable.

Overall, Tate has been a disappointment with the Giants, who signed him to a four-year contract worth as much as $37.5 million after he spent the second half of the 2018 season with the Eagles.

Tate has 22 catches for 226 yards this season.

The Eagles gave up a third-round pick to get Tate in October 2018, knowing they would likely get a compensatory fourth-round pick back when Tate left as a free agent after the season.

Perhaps Tate's only impressive play as an Eagle came when he caught the go-ahead TD pass from quarterback Nick Foles in the final minute of the Eagles' 16-15 playoff win over the Chicago Bears.

"I don’t think a lot of people know, but there was some miscommunication on the play," center Jason Kelce said. "So Golden just kind of freelanced a little bit as the play was going on and made the play happen. That’s what you get out of a veteran guy, being a little bit savvy, especially in a crucial moment like that.

"But we were running into issues of how to utilize him, so obviously his time in Philadelphia wasn’t ultra-productive."

It's the same way with the Giants.

Prediction

The Eagles should have just about all of their injured players back, including right tackle Lane Johnson, left guard Isaac Seumalo and running back Miles Sanders. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor didn't play in that first game either.

The Giants have injury issues, and they're just not as good. The Eagles desperately need this game with five straight against teams with winning records coming up next.

Score: Eagles 29, Giants 16.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.