EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense faces a unique challenge Sunday -- and they'll almost certainly do so shorthanded.
Both starting defensive tackles, Linval Joseph (ankle/knee) and Cullen Jenkins (knee/Achilles), sat out practice Thursday, as did starting cornerback Corey Webster (groin). Backup cornerbacks Aaron Ross (back) and Jayron Hosley (hamstring) missed practice as well, leaving the Giants frighteningly thin in the secondary.
But coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did not sound overly concerned when asked about the cornerback shortage. Trumaine McBride is a six-year veteran, and Fewell said Terrell Thomas could possibly be moved from nickelback to the outside.
"We have a plan, as far as what we’d like to do and how we’d like to do it going into the game," Fewell said Thursday. "They’ve done a good job in practice this week -- even though we have some missing parts, they’ve done a really nice job."
Whoever can suit up Sunday will be trying to stop a new style of offense, installed by new Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, formerly of the University of Oregon. The Eagles work quickly -- averaging 22.4 seconds of possession per play, the fewest in the NFL. And they've run 96 read-option plays, more than twice the amount of the next closest team, the Buffalo Bills (46). (Thanks, ESPN Stats & Information.)
The results? Philadelphia leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (198.3), and trails only the Denver Broncos in total yards per game (458.8).
LeSean McCoy is the Giants' No. 1 concern. After a couple of subpar seasons, the 25-year-old looks re-energized -- leading the NFL in rushing, averaging 117 yards per game. (The Giants' run defense is ranked No. 28 in the league, by the way.)
"He’s running like he ran several years ago," Fewell said. "He’s an outstanding runner. And I think the scheme buys him an opportunity to showcase his talents even more. It’s a two-way street -- some scheme, and then he’s just playing lights-out football."
Quarterback Michael Vick has completed 65 of 118 passes (55.1 percent), with five touchdowns and just two interceptions. And he's run the ball 26 times for 228 yards. (To put that in some perspective -- the Giants only have 231 rushing yards as a team.)
DeSean Jackson has 21 catches for 393 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 18.7 yards per catch (fifth in the league). And the Eagles have 24 passing plays of 20 yards or more in four games.
"Those [players'] skill levels are really good," Fewell said. "So when you add that with the things that they’re doing now, it’s an offense that can move the football all over the field."
The Giants spent considerable time in training camp preparing for the Eagles' offense, considering they'll face it twice per season. Fewell said the coaching staff pored over three years' worth of tape from Kelly's Oregon days, dating back to 2010.
Giants linebacker Spencer Paysinger played for Kelly at Oregon, and said he sees some similarities between the Eagles' offense and the one he faced in practice in college.
"You’ve got to have players that have set rules," Paysinger said. "You don’t want to have to think too much against this type of offense because that’s what they’re banking on -- you thinking too much, getting a half-man out of the gap and they can pop a good run."
Preparation shouldn't be an issue. But the injuries may be. And the Giants are already giving up a league-high 36.5 points per game.
The Eagles are second-worst, at 34.5 points per game. New York's best defense may be a good offense, keeping McCoy and company off the field.