Corey Webster has a sore back and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He is an important player to the Giants defense.
Eagles will load up to stop the run because they don't respect Eli and the Giants passing game, especially with Plaxico out. Burress always had big games against the Eagles, going back to the TD he caught in OT in Philly. In fact, that was the prototypical play that describes the Eagles defense. It was 3rd and long with the Giants on the outer edge of FG range. Eagles went for an all-out blitz on the play, leaving Burress in 1-on-1 coverage. Eli backpedaled, waited as long as he could for Plax to get down field and then as he was getting hit by a blitzing Dawkins, he threw the ball up in the air, knowing that the 6'6" Burress would outfight the smaller DB for the catch. Eagles remember that and will come in thinking that Eli can't hurt them with plays like that anymore now that Burress is out. So Eagles will load the line of scrimmage in running downs to stop the run, hope they can put the Giants in 3rd and long passing downs and then will blitz like crazy, bringing as many people as they can. Giants have to be prepared for that type of defense.
As a response, Giants have to come out prepared to throw the ball early. Early in the game and early in the down count. The mantra for this game: throw early, run late. If Eagles sit back and defend the pass, which I doubt that they will, then Giants can try to run against them. Gilbride has been very faithful to the run this year - and has not abandoned it even in the games where the opponents defended Giants run well - like Steelers game and early in Redksins game. In return, even in those games, Giants made enough runs to be effective and keep the defense honest. Late in those games, Giants got the running game going a little bit and Gilbride was rewarded for his patience. Gilbride was very predictable last year with the offense and has really done a great job this year of being balanced and varying the offense much more from week to week.
I would not be surprised to see Giants run some stuff for Manningham this week. I think the coaches really like his skills.
A bubble screen to Moss or Manningham would be an interesting play to blunt the Eagles blitz. Also - look for that quick screen to Ward or Jacobs to beat their blitz.
An indication of how deep the Giants are: rewind to last year. If the Giants had lost Plaxico in week 14, Giants fans would have been pulling their hair out and would have been borderline suicidal about the team's chances in the playoffs. Now - even though we know we lost a top player, we are confident (maybe slightly overconfident) that Hixon will just fill the void seamlessly and the Giants will not miss a beat. I think Giants fans are misjudging the situation, but only slightly. Giants offense will not fall apart but it definitely took a hit with loss of Burress.