NFC East: New York Giants

Eli Manning is healthy, but that's not the only reason to be excited, New York Giants fans.

Manning also sounds rejuvenated by the process of learning a new offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

Manning
"It is tough, it's not easy, but it has definitely re-energized me and brought an urgency to this time of year," Manning said Tuesday, on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP is coming off arguably the poorest season of his career, if you toss out the nine games he played in his rookie season. Manning threw for just 18 touchdowns, with a league-high 27 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of just 69.4 in 2013.

His work ethic has never been questioned, but it sounds like Manning's working even harder than usual.

"It's definitely challenging. Each night, I'm staying up and preparing, and I feel like I'm in season right now with the amount of preparation I'm trying to put in to get ready for each practice," Manning said.

"Each practice is draining on you mentally, you're thinking so much about everything that has to go on and the different calls," the quarterback continued. "But it is also exciting. As a football player, as a competitor, you like to be challenged."

The Giants have two more organized team activities, on Thursday and Friday, followed by a mandatory three-day minicamp next week. Manning has been able to participate fully in the team's first eight OTAs, despite undergoing ankle surgery in April.

That should pay dividends, as the 33-year-old prepares to play under a new offensive coordinator for the first time in his career.

"This has been huge, just getting in the offense," Manning said. "It's one thing to listen to a play being called or watch plays being run -- you may think you have a good grasp of it, until you're out there and you gotta pull the trigger, you gotta make a call, you gotta change a play and you’re doing it live, and with the defense, and make all those little decisions. It was huge."
There are only 13 coaches in NFL history who have won multiple Super Bowls.

Two of them were at the New York Giants' training facility on Tuesday.

Current head coach Tom Coughlin welcomed former Giants coach Bill Parcells to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The two men responsible for the franchise's four Super Bowl victories posed for a photo in front of the trophy case in the lobby, which features their handiwork:



That's not all they did Tuesday. The Giants held their eighth of 10 organized team activities (this one closed to the media), with Parcells watching, and the 2013 Hall of Fame inductee addressed the team on the field at the end of practice, according to Giants.com.

The Giants' final two OTAs are on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday session is open to the media, as is next week's mandatory three-day minicamp.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Four weeks ago, at the New York Giants' first player availability of the offseason, Walter Thurmond boasted that the team's secondary could be better than the Seahawks' Legion of Boom, and Antrel Rolle said Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be the best cornerback in the NFL.

There were no such proclamations this Tuesday, during the team's second availability of the spring. But Rodgers-Cromartie did talk to reporters, and sounds bullish about the Giants' defense come this fall.

Rolle
Rodgers-Cromartie
"It can be real good," he said. "Not even from just a secondary standpoint -- I look at going through these drills with the linebackers, they definitely understand the coverages and how to drop. So I think that'll be helpful, when your linebackers and secondary are of one accord."

Rodgers-Cromartie signed a five-year, $39 million contract ($15 million guaranteed) with the Giants back in March, after also meeting with the New York Jets, and said Tuesday that his decision was not an easy one.

"It was very difficult," he said. "You visit both teams, and both teams seem really, really interested in you. But at the end of the day, I felt comfortable coming over here just with the things that were being said and that were going to be done -- I just felt that would better help me as a football player."

It sounds like Rolle's influence was key. The two were teammates with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008 and 2009.

"He just hit me up and said a couple things that hit home," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He was like, 'I think you can be this and that in our system, and the coaches and everybody else will help you get to it, just buy into it.'"

A former first-round pick back in 2008, with 19 interceptions in six seasons, Rodgers-Cromartie is now on his fourth NFL team -- and he's hoping to stay awhile this time around. He said he's been sitting next to Rolle in team meetings, to speed his learning of the new terminology.

He also admits hearing what Rolle said about him last month, and appreciates the compliment, but will let his play do the talking.

"Whenever you've got somebody that believes in you, you want to go out there and just go that much harder," Rodgers-Cromartie said, "kind of not be a letdown and hold up your end of the bargain."

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 4

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
6:00
AM ET
On the schedule for Saturday in Indianapolis:

Giants/Jets media availability: Giants general manager Jerry Reese will address the media at 10 a.m., one day after his coach -- Tom Coughlin -- announced his own one-year contract extension. No doubt, Reese will be asked about Coughlin, but most of the topics will be personnel-related. The Giants' talent base has decayed the last two years, and Reese needs a home-run draft to get them back in the playoffs. There will be no Jets media availability.

Combine schedule: This is the busiest day because there are four different player groups involved in various activities. The offensive linemen and tight ends finish up their week with on-field drills -- springs, agility stations and skill drills. ... The quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers move to their next phase -- psychological testing, bench press and team interviews. ... The defensive linemen and linebackers get into the action with measurements, medical exams, team interviews and media obligations. ... The defensive backs arrive in town, starting with a medical pre-exam and X-rays, orientation and team interviews.

Players of interest: The big story -- the big, big story -- will be Michael Sam. If you haven't heard of him, you're welcome to rejoin our society at any time now. The former Missouri defensive end, who came out recently as gay, is scheduled to meet the media. It probably will be the largest news conference in combine history, assuming it happens. The schedule got jammed up Friday because medical exams took longer than expected, causing some of the wide receivers (including the top prospects) to postpone their media sessions until Saturday. Hopefully, Sam stays on schedule because it should be fascinating.

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 2

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
6:00
AM ET
On the schedule for Thursday in Indianapolis:

Local media: New York Jets coach Rex Ryan (2:45 p.m.) and general manager John Idzik (3 p.m.) are scheduled for news conferences. The hot topics will be the futures of Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie; the draft and free agency; and the organization's first public comment on former Missouri DE Michael Sam. The New York Giants' media availability begins Friday.

Combine schedule: Placekickers, special teamers, offensive linemen and tight ends will undergo medical exams, measurements and team interviews. They also will be available to the media. ... Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs arrive in town. They will have a medical pre-exam, X-rays, orientation and team interviews.

Players of interest: The Jets (18th overall pick) and Giants (12th) both have a need at tight end, so North Carolina's Eric Ebron -- the consensus top player at the position -- will be a focal point among the New York reporters. Ebron has the ability to light up the combine -- on and off the field. He's confident and entertaining, once bragging that his speed should be "illegal." He will be asked about his weight in light of a recent report that he put on extra pounds in an effort to become a better blocker. ... The Giants need help at offensive tackle, so Thursday's media session will offer a chance to meet first-round possibilities, namely Michigan's Taylor Lewan. We know how the Giants love those Big 10 linemen.

Live blog: New York Giants at Detroit Lions

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
2:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the New York Giants' visit to the Detroit Lions. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
Justin Tuck and Matthew StaffordGetty ImagesJustin Tuck, left, and the Giants will be trying to end the playoff hopes of Matthew Stafford's Lions.
It is a battle of disappointments on Sunday at Ford Field: the New York Giants, who have been disappointing all season, against the Detroit Lions, who have been one of the more surprising teams over the second half of the season -- in a bad way.

The Giants have no playoff hopes. The Lions need to win their final two games and then hope for help (i.e., losses) from Green Bay and Chicago.

Taking you through Sunday’s matchup are ESPN.com NFL reporters Michael Rothstein (Lions) and Dan Graziano (Giants).

Rothstein: The Giants have struggled all season, and Eli Manning has been at the forefront of that. What has changed there?

Graziano: It's basically just a complete bottoming-out on all fronts, starting with the protection. A line that wasn't great to begin with is down two starters and has been playing a rookie at right tackle all season. The blocking help the line used to get from running backs and tight ends disappeared when the Giants let Ahmad Bradshaw and Martellus Bennett leave in the offseason. Hakeem Nicks has had a terrible year at receiver, playing like he is more worried about staying healthy in advance of free agency than trying his best to win. There has been no run game at all for long stretches. And Manning has failed to elevate above his miserable circumstances, missing too many throws and too often looking as though it has all been too much for him. It's been a total whitewash of a season for the Giants' offense. They are the only team in the league that has been shut out even once this season, and they've been shut out twice.

What is the deal out there in Detroit? To my eyes, the Lions should have put this division away by now with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler having been out for so long. What is the main reason they seem to have squandered such a great opportunity?

Rothstein: I don't know whether there are enough words to describe all that has gone on, although the simplest way to put it would be consistent end-game meltdowns, either from turnovers, coaching decisions or a defense that suddenly faltered.

A lot of it has to do with Matthew Stafford, who has had accuracy issues in the second half of the season. Really, there have been issues everywhere but the lines, from turnovers to coverage breakdowns on defense.

This is a team that should be safely in the playoffs right now instead of needing to win out and get help.

That obviously leads to job-security questions for Jim Schwartz. Although that doesn't seem to be the case for Tom Coughlin, has this season given any indication as to how much longer he plans to be on the sideline?

Graziano: No, Coughlin is really a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of guy. He's completely believable when he insists he's focused on only this week's game and doesn't want to address anything beyond this season. People close to Coughlin insist he won't quit as long as he feels he can still do the job, and there is no indication he feels otherwise. He has as much passion and energy as anyone else in the building (and right now, more than most!). I don't think Giants ownership would fire him, and I'd be stunned if he got into the offseason and decided he was done. As one person close to him told me, "He has no hobbies. There's nothing for him to retire TO." At 67 years old, he understands why the questions get asked, but he doesn't view himself as near the end of a career, I don't think. As of now, he plans to be part of the solution here, and it would be a major upset if he wasn't back in 2014.

One of Coughlin's biggest immediate problems is keeping his quarterback from getting killed. How is that Detroit pass rush looking these days?

Rothstein: Eli, meet Ndamukong. He will be the guy tossing you to the ground today. In all seriousness, though, the Lions' pass rush has been interesting. The Lions have been great at applying pressure (other than against Pittsburgh) but don't have the actual numbers to show for it, which can be confusing.

What teams have done is bottle the middle on Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and have either a tight end or running back help on either Willie Young or Ziggy Ansah on the ends.

So to answer your question, it has been OK, but not the consistently dominant force some were expecting.

That leads into my last question. The Lions' run defense, headed by that front, has been one of the best in the league this season. Have the Giants figured any way to solve their run woes?

Graziano: Andre Brown was hot for a while when he came back from his injury, and the offensive line was starting to block better for the run. But the past two weeks have seen a step backward, and the way the line is configured now, with starting left guard Kevin Boothe playing center and backups rotating in and out at left guard, has left it very vulnerable and one-dimensional. The Giants were able to take advantage of some good matchups with Brown running well, but against tougher fronts like the one they saw against Seattle last week, they struggle. I imagine they will struggle against the Lions' front in the run game as well.

Two straight disappointing games for Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Do you expect Megatron to blow up this week and victimize the Giants' secondary?

Rothstein: Kind of. As cornerback Rashean Mathis told me this week, if the Lions don’t find their urgency now, they’ll never find it this season. So I’d imagine you would see Johnson -- who is Detroit's best player -- at the forefront of that if the Lions have any shot over the next two weeks. Plus, those two drops he had against Baltimore will gnaw at him all week long. I expect he’ll have a big game.

Stafford, on the other hand, I’m not as sure about because he seems genuinely rattled this second half of the season. Detroit needs to find what was working for him at the start of the season and bring that back, otherwise its season is over.

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Live blog: Giants at Chargers

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
2:30
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the New York Giants' visit to the San Diego Chargers. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
 

Live blog: Giants at Redskins

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
6:30
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the New York Giants' visit to the Washington Redskins. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.

Double Coverage: Giants at Redskins

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
12:00
PM ET
Brian Orakpo, Andre BrownGetty ImagesSlowing down Andre Brown is going to be key for Brian Orakpo and the Washington defense.
The Washington Redskins anticipated a battle with the New York Giants with NFC East ramifications. Instead, they, and the nation, get another prime-time game that could serve as a reminder of how far they've fallen in one year.

The Redskins remain alive for a playoff spot mathematically, though they could be eliminated with a loss Sunday. The Giants have more hope, though even they're two games behind in the NFC East. Rather, this game for both becomes a must win in order to prove that yes, indeed, they're heading in the right direction. At least the Giants have won four of their last five.

The Redskins have dropped two straight and haven't played a complete game all season. Questions surrounding them will move to 2014 and what might happen – at coach and elsewhere. It's not a good time for either franchise.

ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano and Redskins reporter John Keim break down the matchup.

John Keim: Dan, why the change in Eli Manning's game? And I guess I mean that two ways: Why so many turnovers early and why has he turned it around?

Dan Graziano: The turnovers early were the result of a little bit of everything. The pass protection was a major problem, as it continues to be, and I think that made Eli uncomfortable and led to some bad decisions on his part. The Giants had no run game to speak of for the first five weeks of the season. The struggles of Hakeem Nicks have contributed as well, I think, to a general feeling of discomfort for a quarterback who likes to feel sure of his surroundings. I think the "turnaround," such as it is, is the result of scaling things down and really trying to emphasize avoiding mistakes. As a result, the turnovers have lessened (as the law of averages kind of said they had to), but the Giants' passing game obviously isn't what it used to be. They threw for 154 yards Sunday against a Cowboys pass defense that was allowing 313 a game coming in. They've only scored 28 points in a game once all year. The problems on offense are far from solved.

Speaking of problems, who broke the Redskins? I watched that fiasco Monday. I leave for three months and this is what happens? What's wrong with Robert Griffin III?

Keim: It's amazing how many players say they've had a tough time without you writing about them. The adjustment has been tougher than anyone realized. As for Griffin, it's a few things. One, he really is adjusting to being more of a dropback passer; he was not ready to be one after just one season and no legitimate offseason. Defenses have played him differently, taking away a lot of the explosive plays they got in play-action last season. You see him hesitating on some throws, not trusting what he sees. He takes a while to go through progressions and that sometimes causes his mechanics to get messed up – his eyes are looking one way; his feet are pointing the other. Too often he's unable to step into throws because of pressure. He's not as explosive as last season, though he's still mobile enough to be a threat. Oh, and he's learning to deal with adversity on and off the field. I know players keep calling him a good leader, but I think he still has things to learn. On the field, he'll still have games where he plays well, but he's also had a couple games lately that would qualify as his worst in the NFL.

The question is, will the Giants get to him? Their pass rush seems a little improved lately. Why is that?

Graziano: Well, before Sunday I'd have said it was because they'd played four straight games against Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor and Scott Tolzien. But then they sacked Tony Romo four times and that got my attention. They've been very good on the interior of the defensive line all year, especially against running backs, but DTs Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins have stepped up as pass-rushers in recent weeks as well. The DEs are still not getting home. Justin Tuck has played the run well but hasn't gotten to the quarterback consistently. Jason Pierre-Paul has two sacks in his last 18 games and played fewer than half of the defensive snaps Sunday due to a shoulder injury that's apparently going to limit him all year. So if the Redskins can get the interior defensive linemen blocked, they may be able to keep RG III cleaner than they could Monday. (Not that that would be tough to improve on!) The Giants have been able to get more sacks in recent games, but a lot of them have come from defensive backs and DTs. The feared four-man rush is a thing of the past.

What about the Redskins on defense? Still looks as though they have issues in the secondary, but will Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan be able to make Eli move his feet?

Keim: Orakpo has been playing well the past couple games, probably more so against the run than in the pass game. Kerrigan has been rather quiet lately and, by his own admission, tends to get too conservative with his rushes. He worked on a counter move to the inside this summer, but I haven't seen a lot of it during the season. They were able to put some pressure on Colin Kaepernick, but he was often able to get away from pressure. The Redskins' rush just isn't collapsing the pocket enough to make quarterbacks uncomfortable, though they usually fare well against Eli as a defense. The problem for Washington has been that when the outside linebackers pinch the pocket, the interior does not collapse it, or rushers get out of their lanes and that leads to areas a quarterback can step into. I wouldn't be surprised if they're aggressive coming through the middle this week with the Giants losing Jim Cordle. But this is not a talented defense, so even if there's pressure the Redskins don't always make the plays in the backfield. And even if the secondary covers well, the front doesn't get there. Sort of a problem.

Last one, what is Tom Coughlin's future in New York and do you think the Giants are capable of a strong finish or do too many problems still exist?

Graziano: Coughlin's not going anywhere. If anything, he deserves credit for holding the team together after the 0-6 start. He's the guy Giants ownership wants to coach the team and help solve the problem next year. They have some rebuilding to do here, but I'd be shocked if Coughlin isn't a part of it. As for how they'll finish, the schedule makes it tough for optimism. Between the Redskin games, they have trips to San Diego and Detroit and a home game against the Seahawks. They won't fold the tents, but it's tough to see how they end up better than 6-10.

How's Shanahan holding up? One year left on the deal: Do you think he comes back?

Keim: I'm not sold on that yet because I've been around long enough to see how things go at Redskins Park. They are not playing like a well-coached team right now and that needs to change or anything is possible. Shanahan appears to be holding up OK, like a guy who expects to be back for a fifth year (or is trying to convince himself that he will). I think the key will be whether or not Dan Snyder says he can return but without an extension. Could Shanahan accept that – especially when knowing that it will make it difficult to lure players and even coaches, assuming they make a change or two there (as I would expect).

Live blog: Giants at Eagles

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
10:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the New York Giants' visit to the Philadelphia Eagles. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have given up three long punt returns for touchdowns in the first seven games of the season and special teams coach Tom Quinn is not taking that lightly.

Quinn
"They've all been different circumstances and it just hasn't been good enough for anyone," Quinn said Thursday. "We're all embarrassed by it."

In Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, Trindon Holliday's 81-yard return early in the fourth quarter was the backbreaker in a 41-23 Giants loss. Two weeks later in Kansas City, Dexter McCluster's 89-yard return late in the third quarter broke open a tight 10-7 game, leading to a 31-7 Chiefs victory.

Marcus Sherels' 86-yard return Monday night didn't ultimately hurt the Giants in their 23-7 defeat of the Minnesota Vikings -- but it certainly hurt Quinn.

"It's not what our expectations are," Quinn said. "It pisses you off and I hope it pisses everyone off in this building. To take away a shutout from the defense? That hurts. How many times do we get opportunities to do that? So, it's frustrating."

To be fair, Holliday and McCluster are among the more dangerous returners in the NFL right now. Holliday has two kick-return touchdowns and two punt-return touchdowns in the past season and a half with the Broncos. McCluster is leading the league in punt-return yardage this year.

On the Sherels return, "We didn't get good releases as the gunners and we didn't get great releases up front," Quinn said. "We have to sprint faster to the ball and squeeze to the ball. We have to make the play on that guy."

Next up is a rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles, who beat the Giants in Week 5. DeSean Jackson is still an Eagle, and who can forget his game-winning punt return against the Giants back in 2010? But Damaris Johnson has been Philadelphia's primary return man this season.

Johnson has yet to break one for a score. But he is fourth in the league in kick-return yardage (385).

Quinn isn't concerned with who the opposing team chooses to return kicks.

"We face great returners every week," Quinn said. "You just gotta do your job. You're paid to do the job, you gotta get it done."
McCoy-ManningUSA TODAY SportsA steady diet of LeSean McCoy will help keep Eli Manning and the New York offense on the sideline.
Just three weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants 36-21 at MetLife Stadium, the NFC East rivals meet again Sunday. This time, the scene is Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles have lost a franchise-record nine consecutive games.

As he did last time, Michael Vick is expected to start at quarterback for the Eagles. Vick was injured before halftime of that game and hasn't played since. In his absence, Nick Foles led the Eagles to a decisive win in Tampa and an equally decisive loss to Dallas. Foles left that game with a concussion.

As he did last time, Eli Manning will start for the Giants. The Eagles intercepted Manning three times in the fourth quarter. Against the Vikings Monday night, Manning had his first game of the season without an interception, after throwing 15 in the Giants’ first six games. All six were losses, which is probably not a coincidence.

Dan Graziano, who covers the Giants for ESPN.com, chatted with Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan about Sunday’s game.

Phil Sheridan: Now that the Giants have that elusive first win, is there a sense the season is salvageable?

Dan Graziano: Phil, I really think the Giants have excelled at one thing this year, and that is keeping their focus on the week at hand and pushing the ugly, big picture out of their minds. They know they're in a huge hole at 1-6. If they stopped to think about it, they'd probably realize their chances of making it a season are impossibly low. But they're not stopping to think about it. They are enjoying the fact that they won a game for the first time since Week 17 of last year, and then they're locked in on trying to beat the Eagles and get another one. This is where Tom Coughlin's leadership shows, I think -- in the Super Bowl runs but also in a tough time like this, when it really is all about playing for pride, but over the years we've seen a lot of teams unable to do that when a season slips away. The Giants are unlikely to quit on their season, no matter how bad it gets, and that week-to-week focus is critical to that.

How about the Eagles? Ol' Mike Vick couldn't finish the game three weeks ago and hasn't played since, but it sounds like he's starting Sunday, right? Will he be at full strength and able to rip off those long runs that caused the Giants so much trouble the first time?

Sheridan: I doubt Vick himself will know the answer to that one until he tries it, Dan. That’s the thing about an injury like a hamstring or other pull. You can’t be sure it’s 100 percent until you do something that would make it pop again without popping it. Vick has been avoiding that while the injury heals. That question leads to the next point, which is that Vick running was about the only thing working for the Eagles in that game against the Giants. He couldn’t get the passing game going and the Giants drew up the blueprint Dallas just copied to contain LeSean McCoy. So this shapes up as a tough test for Vick and the rest of the offense.

Speaking of that Giants' defense, it looked as if Jason Pierre-Paul had a little more bounce Monday night. How much better and healthier is that defense than it was even three weeks ago?

Graziano: Pierre-Paul did look better in the first half, I thought. I thought the same thing in the first Eagles game. But we haven't seen him maintain it throughout a game yet, and regardless of how he looked Monday, he's still a player who has one sack in his past 14 games. The Giants need him to be great, and he hasn't been. They believe there's a week coming when he'll terrorize people again. They wish they knew which it was. The biggest difference, though, to me on the Giants' defense is new middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has really taken over as a leader and a playmaker the last two games since coming over in that trade from Carolina. Beason is getting the defense fired up before the game and lined up during it, and his performance so far really points to how glaring their need was for anything at all at linebacker. The whole defense is more energized and organized now, and they are doing a good job limiting opposing running backs, especially between the tackles. Vick and McCoy are going to have to find room outside if they're to pile up yardage.

How's that Eagles defense shaping up these days? I know they were happy when Eli Manning started throwing them the ball a couple of weeks ago in the fourth quarter, but they weren't much for stopping a weak Giants offense in the first three quarters. Are they improving on defense in Chip Kelly's first year?

Sheridan: They were darn near respectable against the Cowboys Sunday. It’s important to remember that the Eagles played the Broncos right before the first game against the Giants. Peyton Manning put up 52 on them. It was an Arena League game. The Eagles desperately needed to show some improvement. When Eli Manning hit on a couple of deep throws, it looked like another debacle in the making. That fourth quarter, and those three picks, helped a lot. The Eagles were fine against Tampa Bay, but that was against a rookie quarterback making his second start. So playing well against Tony Romo and Dez Bryant was a big step. They aren’t going to scare anyone, but they can get some pressure on the quarterback, play the run reasonably well and are improving in the secondary. It remains a work in progress, but you can actually see the progress, which helps.

Seems like the Giants went ahead and grafted an entirely new running attack onto their offense since the last go-round. How effective have Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis been? And has that helped Eli get the passing game going a little bit more effectively?

Graziano: Well, Jacobs rushed for 106 on 22 carries in the loss to the Bears, but he and Da'Rel Scott hurt their hamstrings in that game, so they ended up signing Hillis last week and running him and rookie Michael Cox out there for their first carries of the season Monday. Figure David Wilson and Andre Brown were supposed to be the "co-starters" preseason, and they're down to their No. 5 and 6 running backs. I think the Jacobs game was a fluke against a bad Bears defense that has nothing on the defensive line right now, and while Hillis got some love Monday, they averaged only 2.0 yards per carry against the Vikings. The one thing that I think has come out of the past two games in terms of running backs is that Hillis looked like a good checkdown option for Manning catching passes out of the backfield. So many of Manning's issues this year come down, I think, to his insufficient comfort level in the pocket due to protection issues. Having a checkdown pass-catcher whom he trusts would be a helpful thing in terms of limiting turnovers.

And Manning cutting out the turnovers sure would put the Giants' fans in a better mood going forward. Speaking of which, what's the mood like around the Eagles in Philadelphia these days? The fans high on Chip Kelly? Skeptical? And ultimately, do you think they break their home losing streak against the last team they beat down there?

Sheridan: I would say there is a fair amount of skepticism about Chipper right now. Not being Andy Reid only goes so far (especially when Big Red is Bigger, Redder and 7-0). Reasonable fans (there are a surprisingly large number of those here) expected it to take a little time to implement Kelly’s plan. I think whatever doubts have crept in are due to Kelly himself: a silly two-point conversion try against San Diego, admitting he didn’t know an injury/timeout rule, a truly dreadful offensive showing against the Cowboys, and so on. We just haven’t been dazzled by the promised bells and whistles on offense. Still, there is a lot of curiosity about where this is going and what Kelly will do next. As for predictions, well ...

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Eli Manning and Jay CutlerUSA TODAY SportsGiants quarterback Eli Manning and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler are having drastically different seasons.

Desperate teams make for intriguing matchups, which might be exactly what we see Thursday night at Soldier Field, when the winless New York Giants face a Chicago Bears team coming off two consecutive losses.

The Giants are off to their first 0-5 start in more than 20 years, while the Bears hope to get back to the positive vibe created by a 3-0 start. After Thursday, the Bears will play only one game in 24 days as they travel to Washington on Oct. 20, before taking their bye the next week.

ESPN.com’s Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break down the matchup.

Michael C. Wright: No team has ever started the season 0-5 and made the playoffs. My guess is everybody in that locker room believes the Giants can be an exception to that. What’s the feeling in the locker room and is there genuine belief the Giants can right the ship?

Dan Graziano: I think the Giants are shell-shocked, Michael. I don't think, in their wildest imaginations, they could ever have expected to be 0-5 with 20 turnovers and a minus-100 point differential. I truly don't believe they know where to put themselves or how to handle this situation. Last week, with a division game in front of them and an 0-4 record, there was talk of being able to fight their way back into things. Now, when you ask them about that, they say they don't even want to think about whether they can make the playoffs. It's all just, "We just need to win a game -- find a way to win one game." Things are truly awful with the Giants on every level right now, and the worst thing about what they've done is the 20 turnovers -- most of any team in the league. With that in mind, I'm inclined to think that Chicago is absolutely the worst possible place in the world for them to have to go on this particular short week. Am I right? Is the Bears defense the same kind of turnover-generating monster it was in the Rod Marinelli days?

Wright: You might be, Dan. But at the same time, the turnovers seem to have dried up somewhat. The Bears forced 11 takeaways during their 3-0 start, but over the past two games, they’ve taken the ball away three times, and had no takeaways Sunday in the loss to New Orleans. Given New York’s penchant for turnovers, and the fact that takeaways have been ingrained in the culture of this team’s defense dating back to the start of the Lovie Smith regime, I’d guess the Bears find a way to force at least one turnover in this game. The Bears lead the league in points off takeaways (55), rank No. 1 in takeaways (14) and since 2004, have returned more interceptions for touchdowns (28) than any team in the NFL. So despite the recent drought, the Bears still field a turnover-producing defense.

Speaking of turnovers, Dan, Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions. Why? Is it the result of bad luck, bad decisions? Is he just forcing things and trying to make a play because of the team’s dire situation?

Graziano: After Sunday's game, Tom Coughlin said he really believes Manning is trying to do too much -- to take too much of the responsibility on himself. And honestly, I think that excuse held up a lot through the first four games, as several of the interceptions came when the team was well behind late and he had no choice but to try crazy throws to get them back into it. But Sunday was flat-out weird. The score was 22-21 Eagles early in the fourth quarter when Manning threw his first interception, and it was the first of three he would throw in the span of nine throws. The whole game fell apart as a direct result of those plays, and Coughlin also pointed out that Manning was flagged for three costly intentional grounding penalties in the game. Coughlin called Manning's mistakes "demoralizing" to the team, and it was clear he was uncomfortable criticizing the quarterback with whom he has won two Super Bowls. I think Manning is a quarterback who's just not comfortable right now, and his performance may be a symbol of the team at large as one that finds itself in uncharted territory and unsure of what to do and how to act. This all started because of a horrible offensive line that's still not doing its job, but Manning's errors Sunday were largely unforced, and I think they're evidence that the problems are snowballing.

How about the Bears? They looked so good those first three games and now have lost two. They also looked more vulnerable to the pass rush Sunday against the Saints. The Giants have only five sacks this year and aren't the fearsome pass-rush unit they were in the days when they were able to sack Jay Cutler nine times in a single half. But will they get opportunities to turn it around Thursday night? Or do the Bears protect Cutler better than they used to?

Wright: The protection is definitely better under Marc Trestman, who prioritized keeping Jay Cutler clean from the first day he became head coach. The Saints definitely got to Cutler early on, sacking him three times in Chicago’s first 12 plays from scrimmage. But after that, the protection held well and didn’t surrender another sack. Give New Orleans coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan credit for devising a few blitzes the Bears admitted they weren’t prepared for. Chicago’s offense is almost exactly the same as the system run by the Saints, so Payton likely gave Ryan some pointers about the scheme’s vulnerabilities in protection. The offensive line has given up nine sacks through the first five games. Last year, they’d given up that many in the first two games. So I wouldn’t count on the type of performance we saw a few years ago when Cutler absorbed nine sacks in that brutal first half against the Giants. This is a much-improved offensive line, bolstered by an offensive scheme designed to get the ball out of Cutler’s hands quickly.

Since we’re being a little nostalgic here, what about Tom Coughlin? Under Coughlin, the Giants have been in these types of situations before where they’ve struggled, but later rebounded wonderfully. Aside from the losses, what’s different about the current situation?

Graziano: I think you see symptoms of decay on the lines, and to me that means the problems run deeper and will take a long time to correct. Yes, they're 0-5, but they're also 3-10 in their past 13 games dating back to the midpoint of last season. The offensive line is a wreck, and they haven't developed replacements for their aging and injured guys. The defensive line doesn't get sacks anymore (Jason Pierre-Paul has one in his past 11 games), and they haven't developed anyone in the pipeline on that side either. These are foundational problems that are showing up and killing this team, and the only way to fix them is with a few good drafts. The Giants, I believe, are embarking upon a painful rebuild, and I'm fascinated to see if they can accomplish it while Manning is still in his prime, and take advantage of whatever window he has left.

Coughlin's going to get to coach them as long as he wants to, however, as a result of the two Super Bowl titles. But how about the Bears' first-year coach? What's different there with Marc Trestman at the helm this year?

Wright: The biggest difference is the level of trust Trestman has established among the players -- Cutler, especially -- in such a short period of time. It has totally changed the culture in the locker room, and you see evidence of it every day at Halas Hall. In the past, coaches rarely stepped foot into the locker room, but now, you see coaches in there every day chatting with the players. Most important, Cutler totally believes in what the team is doing offensively, and that certainly wasn’t the case in the past. You can see that in the way Cutler reacts to adversity. In past years, the Bears had a tendency to go into a tailspin when they fell behind or when Cutler was taking sacks or turning the ball over. Not anymore. The Bears put together come-from-behind victories in their first two games, and in the past two losses, the club rallied from horrid starts to get back in serious contention. Trestman is definitely a very cerebral coach, and almost every player in that locker room raves about him being a good listener.

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Live blog: Eagles at Giants

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the Philadelphia Eagles' visit to the New York Giants. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.

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