“You usually see ghosts," he said, "after you done got hit by one."
Manning has been sacked eight times -- tied for the second-most in the league through two weeks along with this week’s counterpart, Carson Wentz -- while absorbing 12 quarterback hits. He is getting sacked on 10.3 percent of his dropbacks, fourth-most in the NFL, despite getting the ball out of his hands at a reasonable rate (2.54 seconds on average) according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The struggles of the Giants’ offensive line to start the season have been well-documented. A group that to this point has been comprised of (from left to right) Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart has been unable to get the running game going (the Giants are last in rushing at 48.5 yards per game) or keep the quarterback clean.
It’ll be strength against weakness this week. The Eagles’ defensive line has been the team’s top unit through two games, having generated seven sacks, eight hurries, nine tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles in eight quarters of work.
Their efforts have helped protect a back end that has been stung by injuries and will be without cornerback Ronald Darby (ankle dislocation), CB Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) and safety Corey Graham (hamstring). Starting safety Rodney McLeod is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Defensive coordinators are often hesitant to blitz Manning (teams have sent an extra man just 15.4 percent of the time so far this season, which ranks 29th in NFL) in part because the veteran QB makes a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage, often after the defense has declared their intentions. Assuming Eagles DC Jim Schwartz stays largely conservative in this area, the front four will be asked to create most of the havoc on their own.
Defensive end Brandon Graham (2.5 sacks) and DTs Fletcher Cox (2 sacks) and Tim Jernigan (1.5 sacks) have led the charge to this point. A key matchup to watch Sunday will be DE Vinny Curry against Flowers. Curry is tops on the team with four hurries and has drawn praise from the coaching staff for him improvements over the offseason while Flowers has had a bumpy start to the ’17 campaign.
“I know being a first-rounder, you want to make sure that you get everything out of your player that you put a lot into,” said former 13th overall pick Graham of Flowers. “For him, he’s still young, what is this his second year? ... I think with him he’s going to keep to keep growing, and they’re going to keep working on him, that’s why they keep putting him out there, but this week, we’re going to plan for him, and we’re going to do what we do.”
If the D-line continues to do what it’s been doing, it could be a long day for Manning and the Giants offense.
“I know for us to have success, whoever they put on the offensive line and whatever they do as far as protections, whether it’s adding guys, the tight ends, backs chipping, we’ve got to have some disruption up front. That’s basically going to dictate what we’re able to do on defense,” said Jenkins.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it’s definitely one of those things we’ve circled and highlighted for us to have success, that’s an area we have to win, that’s a matchup we have to win, and so we’re putting a lot on our D-line, obviously.”