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Eagles expecting 3 starters to return vs. Giants, but 3 more ruled out

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he's "anticipating" having wide receiver DeSean Jackson, right tackle Lane Johnson and cornerback Avonte Maddox for the game against the New York Giants on Thursday night.

Jackson (hamstring) and Maddox (ankle) have missed the last three games, while Johnson (ankle) missed the Eagles' game last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

Pederson said wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has yet to play this season after having foot surgery last December, will not return.

He also ruled out running back Miles Sanders (knee), tight end Zach Ertz (ankle) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (quadricep), who were injured against the Ravens.

In addition, rookie Jack Driscoll, who had replaced Johnson at right tackle against the Ravens before leaving with an ankle injury, is also out, along with safety K'Von Wallace (shoulder).

Eagles' DeSean Jackson warms up before facing the Chicago Bears Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

"(Jackson) had a really good week of practice," Pederson said about the walkthroughs this week. "So I anticipate him. I anticipate Lane as well ... Alshon, with a short week, it’s just hard to get him the reps he needs."

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Pederson would not reveal who will start at right guard. But it won't be Jamon Brown, who was released Wednesday afternoon after allowing three sacks to the Ravens' Calais Campbell in his only start Sunday.

That leaves either Matt Pryor, who is coming off the NFL's COVID-19 list in time for the game, or Sua Opeta, who has played a total of five NFL snaps. It's possible that Nate Herbig could move from left guard to right guard, with Opeta playing left guard. Pryor started a game there earlier this season and did not play well.

"I’m going to keep that close to the vest and not reveal any information there," Pederson said.

Secret to Thursday success

It's a difficult circumstance to prepare a team to play again just four days after a Sunday game.

But Pederson has been flawless in that regard. He is 4-0 on Thursday games following a Sunday game, and 5-0 overall (the Eagles opened the 2018 season on a Thursday night).

More impressively, three of those four wins have come following losses. Three of them have also come on the road. And they have come against teams with a combined record of 18-9 coming into the game.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson walks back to the sideline after speaking with quarterback Carson Wentz Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, against the Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field.

"Honestly, I make light of it, but my wife tells me all the time that you can put a game plan together in a day and go win a game on Thursday night, so why can't you do that for a Sunday game?" Pederson said with a laugh.

Then he elaborated: "I do think that there's some validity, so to speak, to keeping it simple. To going back to some of your training camp-type plays. Utilizing all your personnel ... It's all about mental preparation over the physical."

Here's a look at each game:

Odell Beckham Jr. hurdles Philadelphia corner Leodis McKelvin in the fourth quarter of an NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants in 2016.

2016: The Eagles faced the Giants on Dec. 22. The Eagles were 5-9, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, and coming off a heartbreaking 27-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which they missed a 2-point conversion with four seconds left.

Four days later, they faced the Giants, who were 10-4 with a chance to win the NFC East title and possibly get a first-round bye.

But the Eagles intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning three times, and won despite being outgained in total yards 470-286. 

Carson Wentz (11) scrambles against the Carolina Panthers in the first half of a game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

2017: The Eagles were 4-1 heading into the Oct. 12 game, coming off an impressive 34-7 home win over Arizona. But they were about to face the Carolina Panthers, also 4-1, on the road.

The Eagles intercepted Panthers quarterback Cam Newton three times. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks had 17 tackles and Nigel Bradham had 10.

Many Eagles players pointed to that game as the one that proved they were capable of making a deep playoff run. The Eagles won the Super Bowl that season.

Eagles' DeAndre Carer (16) is tracked by New York's Jawill Davis (80) during a punt return Thursday, Oct. 12, 2018, at MetLife Stadium.

2018: The Eagles were coming off a 23-21 loss to Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 7 that left them with a disappointing 2-3 record coming off their Super Bowl season.

Yet the Eagles came back four days later and beat Giants, who were 1-4 at the time, 34-13.

Wentz threw for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Jeffery had 74 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. That was enough to offset Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who ran for 130 yards and had 99 more receiving.

Nigel Bradham (53) intercepts a last-minute pass to secure the victory against Green Bay on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.

2019: The Eagles were reeling, coming off a 27-24 loss to Detroit on Sept. 23, and having to travel to Green Bay to face the undefeated Packers (3-0) at Lambeau Field.

Yet the Eagles found a win to win 34-27.

They fell behind 10-0 early as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 422 yards, was picking the defense apart. But the Eagles stuck to their running game as Jordan Howard had 87 yards rushing and rookie Miles Sanders had 72.

The Packers were at the Eagles' 3 yard line when Bradham intercepted Rodgers' pass into the end zone with 20 seconds left. 

How bad is the NFC East?

Incredibly, the Eagles (1-4-1) and Giants (1-5), with a combined record of 2-9-1, are each within a game of first place in the NFC East.

The Eagles will be alone in first place with a win and a Dallas Cowboys (2-4) loss on Sunday to Washington. If the Giants win and the Cowboys lose, there will be a three-way tie for first with the Giants, Washington and Dallas at 2-5. The Eagles would be a half game back at 1-5-1.

The Eagles are beginning a stretch of three straight division games, all with plenty of rest in between.

After playing the Giants, the Eagles will have 10 days before facing the Cowboys at home on Nov. 1. Then they have a week off before facing the Giants on Nov. 15 at MetLife Stadium.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) rushes against the Washington Football Team but is stopped short of the goal line in the first half on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Rutherford.

Prediction

The Eagles have owned the Giants in recent years, winning seven straight and 11 of 12.

That should continue. The Giants are 31st in points scored per game, averaging just 16.8. They also don't have Barkley, out for the season with a torn ACL.

When asked about quarterback Daniel Jones running more this season, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz replied: "Well, he is their leading rusher. There is that."

Jones has 204 yards rushing, while Devonta Freeman has 164 yards, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

And we'll get to see the Eagles' Darius Slay covering Darius Slayton. Beyond that, the Giants don't have many options. 

Score: Eagles 27, Giants 16

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