Copycat League: Will Teams Attack Eagles' D the Way Giants Did?

Copycat league: Will teams attack Eagles' D the way Giants did? CSNPhilly.com

The Giants made a decision last week. They weren't going to give up sacks.

Coming into that game with a struggling offensive line going against a vaunted pass rush, the Giants made a concerted effort to have Eli Manning get rid of the ball quickly in an attempt to mitigate the pass rush. That's exactly what he did.

In that game, Manning averaged 1.84 seconds to throw, according to Pro Football Focus. Of his 47 pass attempts, 42 came out of his hand in less than 2.5 seconds. On those attempts, he was 32 for 42 and had a passer rating of 105.4. Five came out in 2.6 seconds or longer - on those he was 3 for 5 with a rating of 72.9.

The Eagles charted things a little differently. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said they counted 52 drop backs and 34 passes came out in under two seconds. Three were under one second.

Either way, that's really fast. And Manning wasn't sacked once, although the Eagles won the game.

"It's tough, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "Eli's a great quarterback. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball before it even got there. All we could do was keep fighting, keep hunting, try to get there. Do what we can to affect the game."

The strength of the Eagles' defense through the first three games of the season has been the front four. That's exactly how Schwartz drew it up. His starters and rotation have done a pretty good job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

So did the Giants leave a blueprint? Is this how teams will try to attack the Eagles in the future?

"We'll see," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think the Giants' offensive line was struggling before they got to us so I think that was an obvious matchup or concern for them was our rush. I'm not sure how teams will see that, if they feel confident they can block them up. The Giants, they were a quick-passing game anyway, where I think the Chargers are a little bit more downfield, a little more vertical of a pass game. But I do think there will be opponents all year that if they can, will try to get rid of the ball a little quicker just to alleviate that rush."

Generally, Jenkins is right about the Chargers. If you think about them, they've historically been a team that likes to throw the ball downfield. But the numbers this year might surprise you.

While Manning's time to throw this season is the second shortest in the league at 2.34 seconds, Philip Rivers isn't far behind. In fact, Rivers is fifth on that list, getting the ball out in an average of 2.47 seconds.

This season when throwing the ball in 2.5 seconds or less, Rivers has completed 62.9 percent of his passes with a rating of 94.9. In 2.6 seconds or more, he's just 37.1 percent with a rating of 56.9.

"He's got a quick release," said Eagles DT Beau Allen, who will likely start this week for the injured Fletcher Cox. "At times, it's a little unorthodox but he can throw the ball wherever he wants to put it, whenever he wants to put it there."

The interesting thing with Rivers is that he fluctuates. In 2016, he was 18th in the league, getting the ball out in 2.64 seconds. In 2015, he was the second fastest in the NFL, getting it out in an average of 2.4 seconds.

So it seems like Rivers can do either. Even if the Eagles don't have Cox, why wouldn't he try to get the ball out quickly against them on Sunday?

Now, there's obviously a downside to getting the ball out quickly. If the ball is gone in under two seconds, plays don't have time to develop and teams can't hit big plays. "It limits their explosiveness," Schwartz said. Teams force themselves to kill with a thousand paper cuts.

Still, it might seem like an enticing option to minimize the impact of the Eagles' pass rush. Plenty of defensive players in the locker room think more teams will try to do what the Giants did last week and get the ball out quickly.

"It wouldn't surprise me," Jernigan said. "I think that's just going to help us become better players. While we're going through practice and those different things, we'll just have to find ways to get better at it and be ready for Sunday because anything can happen."