As Nate Solder prepared to face Khalil Mack this week, there was one resource he was hesitant to employ. Across the locker room from him sat one of Mack’s former teammates and fellow defensive linemen with the Raiders, Giants defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr. Surely Edwards would be able to give Solder some insight into Mack’s techniques, strengths and -- if there are any -- weaknesses.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Solder said when the connection was made.
Then again, it might not be as helpful as you’d think.
“I’ve had that experience before,” Solder said of picking up tips from former teammates of upcoming opponents. “Sometimes from a defensive perspective, it can and might help.”
Sometimes, though, it just muddies things.
“The most helpful thing for me is watching film,” Solder said. “You get a little subjective with what the media says and what teammates say, players who played him. But if you can objectively look at it and say, ‘OK, this is what he’s doing, this is how he’s successful,’ then you can say, ‘These are the things I need to defeat.’ ”
And in the case of Mack, well, there might not have been much for Edwards to offer. Asked what teams that have had success against Mack have done up front, Edwards chuckled and told Newsday: “It doesn’t happen often. I wouldn’t really know what to do to stop him.”
NAGY, SHURMUR FROM SAME COACHING TREE
When Matt Nagy was a coaching intern with the Eagles for three weeks in 2008, not everyone on the staff had time to answer his questions or help him along. Nagy understood that. “A lot of coaches, you get so busy whether it’s during the season or in the offseason when you get so many different phone calls from people,” he said.
But there was one assistant in Philadelphia who always found time to touch base with him that year and throughout his development as a coach: Pat Shurmur. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles that season.
On Sunday, the two men will square off as head coaches when the Giants play the Bears.
“He was the one coach that would always return my phone call or return a text message and ask how I was doing,” Nagy said. “That went a long way with me. I thought that speaks volumes of who he is as a person, and I always remembered that. I hang on to that and use that when I run into situations now with people calling me and texting me. Take the football side out of it, that’s who he is as a person and I have a lot of respect for him.”
They spent only that short period of time together, but, as Shurmur said, “We’re really from the same family of coaches.” That includes Andy Reid, who was a head coach mentor to both men.
They’ve also stayed in touch during the decade since they worked together directly.
“We’ve both gone on and done different things, but I’m very impressed with what he’s done,” Shurmur said. “What he’s done on offense is he’s come in and used the strengths of the quarterback they have and provided a little bit of excitement and juice to the team.”
After suggesting that Shurmur’s willingness to help had rubbed off on him, Nagy was asked what he would do if Shurmur texted him and asked for a copy of his game plan for facing the Giants.
“Yeah, I’ll get back to him,” Nagy laughed. “He just won’t get anything.”
Giants' regular-season record against the Bears.
BIG PLAY BARKLEY
In the 10 seasons between 2008 and 2017, the Giants had three touchdown runs of at least 50 yards: David Wilson in 2012 (52 yards), Andre Williams in 2014 (50) and Orleans Darkwa in 2017 (75). Saquon Barkley has three this season, having scored on runs of 68, 50 and 51 yards.
So what’s the key to breaking off those big plays?
“All the big runs that we have had start up front, so the offensive line does a great job and then your job as a running back is to make your guy miss,” Barkley said. “You’ve got to win your one-on-ones.”
For Barkley, that’s the easy part. He has proved to be one of the most elusive and hard-to-bring-down backs in the NFL.
“The common theme that I’ve noticed is breaking tackles . . . and doing what I was brought here to do,” Barkley said. “Make my guy miss and be a game-changer and break a long one.”
The littlest offensive player for the Bears may present the biggest challenge to the Giants. Second-year running back Tarik Cohen — all 5-6 of him — is a rushing and receiving threat, and it will be up to the Giants to keep track of him. That’s where his size comes in handy.
“He’s pretty small, so it’s hard to see him behind the line and he does a good job of finding space and using that to his advantage,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “A guy that’s that small can get lost in the mix for sure and squirt out somewhere where you’re not expecting him to because he has that ability to stop and start at any moment and get outside or hit it up inside, too, so you have to be disciplined and make sure you can hold your lanes and stuff like that.”
BY THE NUMBERS
4: Rookies who have scored touchdowns rushing and receiving in consecutive games in NFL history. Two of them have done it this season; Barkley and Browns running back Nick Chubb in their last two games. The only others were Elvin “Kink” Richards of the 1933 Giants and Rodney Culver of the 1992 Colts.
4: Catches needed by Barkley to pass Jeremy Shockey (74) for second place on the Giants’ single-season rookie reception list. Barkley has 71. Odell Beckham Jr. holds the record with 91.
3: Sacks of Eli Manning for him to become the 15th quarterback in NFL history to be taken down at least 400 times in the regular season. Manning has been sacked 397 times in his career and 38 times this season (which is one shy of his career-high 39 from 2013).