Eagles sidestep Eli Manning questions

PHILADELPHIA – There was a strange atmosphere in the Philadelphia Eagles’ locker room this week. Several of the local TV outlets seemed determined to get a player to say something critical about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

That would be the Manning brother with two Super Bowl rings, the one who is 4-1 this season. The gist of the questions seemed to be that Manning is somehow soft, or easily intimidated if you get pressure on him. One of the reporters even referred to Manning as “She-li” in a question to Eagles outside linebacker Brandon Graham.

“He changes when he gets hit,” Graham said. “That’s as far as I’m going to go with that.”

Not sure what brought all that on. Manning has been playing very well of late. He has learned a new offensive system, one similar to the offense Aaron Rodgers runs in Green Bay. That’s because Ben McAdoo left Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay staff to become the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

“He’s getting rid of the ball quick,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “It’s all timing throws. He’s doing a really good job of delivering the ball on time. That takes hits off of him. He plays a lot better and is a lot more efficient when he’s not getting hit.”

That could be said accurately of roughly 100 percent of NFL quarterbacks. The Eagles’ Nick Foles has struggled this season behind an offensive line that isn’t as stable and solid as it was last season. Up in New England, Tom Brady’s halo is tarnished by speculation that he could be on the decline. Not coincidentally, the Patriots’ offensive line has not been playing as well as it usually does.

Asked about rattling Manning, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made just that point.

“You hope you do that to every quarterback to try to disrupt the timing,” Kelly said. “I think when you let any team's receivers run clean down the field and the quarterback set his feet to throw the ball, then obviously you're going to be in for a long day. So anytime you can disrupt the timing between the quarterback and the receiver, get the quarterback to move off his launch point, slow the receivers down from getting to where they want to get to, I think it helps you from a whole pass defense, obviously.”

The last few weeks, defenses haven’t been able to get to Manning quickly enough. The Giants are emphasizing the short passing game, so there isn’t time for pass rushers to reach the quarterback.

“You can see he must be more comfortable,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “The ball, he knows where he’s going with it. Also, their offensive line is shored up. They’ve been together a while. Now they’re in a rhythm.”

Getting Manning and his teammates out of that rhythm will be the key to the game for the Eagles’ defense.

“He’s no different than any other quarterback,” Barwin said. “If you can get back there and hit him a couple times and rattle him, it changes what they do.”