Eagles are focused heading into division battle against Giants

Pederson says the focus is on winning Thursday’s game, regardless of the opponent.

Ed Benkin
October 10, 2018 - 3:43 pm
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants 2017

© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Eagles will finally play their first division game of the season Thursday night. 

As far as the players are concerned, it matters more about how they play as opposed to who they play.  

The Eagles will head to the Meadowlands with a 2-3 record. They have lost two in a row and continue to look out of sync. It is still only October, but the Eagles are in danger of having their season slip away if they do not get back on the winning track. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the focus is on winning Thursday’s game, regardless of the opponent, but he did acknowledge the significance of the first division battle of the season.

"We have to evaluate ourselves and where we are, and we've got to get better as a football team overall," Pederson noted. “But I think it's still right there to be had. It's a great opportunity to start with the division opponent and try to capture that because you know if you win your division, good things happen later in the season. It's obviously part of our focus and one of our goals each season."

The Giants are shedding few tears for the Eagles these days. New York is 1-4 and coming off a heartbreaking loss to Carolina, which ended on a 63-yard field goal. 

There have been positives for New York early in the season, with one being rookie running back Saquon Barkley. The former Penn State standout has racked up 582 total yards from scrimmage, and Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett has been impressed with what he has seen so far.

"He reminds me of a couple of running backs," Bennett added. "He has shiftiness and quick feet like Marshawn Lynch, but he has balance like LeSean McCoy. He also has speed like Jamaal Charles. He's really a great combination of a running back."

The Eagles will also see a familiar foe in New York quarterback Eli Manning. The veteran signal caller has taken his share of hits behind a suspect offensive line this season. However, Manning has thrown for 1,381 yards and six touchdowns through five games, and Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks believes Manning is as dangerous as ever.

"He's always been Eli," said Hicks. "He's always had the arm talent. He's always made the right decisions. He's a smart football player who understands the game really well, so we've obviously got to be on point going into this game."

The Eagles have gone to the air far more than the ground the last two games. Both contests ended in defeat. 

Now, the Eagles will have to move forward without running back Jay Ajayi, who is gone for the season with a torn ACL. 

Pederson expressed confidence that the rest of the running backs will pick up the slack with the absence of Ajayi, and the coach believes a fast start may provide a boost to the running game.

"The biggest thing is you get leads early in football games and then you can maintain the balance," Pederson explained. “A lot of times, too, our maybe up-tempo offense created some of that, as far as being able to run with a sense of urgency in our tempo offense. If you can jump out to a lead early in football games and sustain it, it definitely creates a better balance and a mix of plays throughout the rest of the game."

Whether by ground or by air on offense, the Eagles are just hoping to rekindle their magic from a year ago. 

The goal is simple on Thursday night for Fletcher Cox and his teammates.

"The biggest thing for us right now is to get a win," said Cox. "Nothing else is important. We need to get a win and turn things around."