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New York Giants Offense vs. Atlanta Falcons Defense: Who Has the Competitive Edge?

Olivier Dumont takes a deep dive into the numbers, personnel and matchups between the New York Giants offense (running and passing) and the Atlanta Falcons defense to see which team has the competitive edge.

Last Thursday night’s showdown against the Washington Football Team was a microcosm of what it feels like to be a Giants fan. From the encouraging progress of an ailing offense to the frustration of jeopardizing penalties, the Giants found themselves in an all too familiar place following their 0-2 start.

However, as the Giants put on full display with head coach Joe Judge last season, it’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish. And with a vulnerable yet desperate 0-2 Atlanta Falcons team coming into town, the Giants have a significant opportunity to reinforce that philosophy with a big win on Sunday.

Though recovering from back-to-back losses is not an easy feat, the Giants illustrated plenty of growth and fight against a tough, well-rounded Football Team and will look to execute on that momentum against the Falcons.

Despite a slow start against the Eagles (scoring only six points in their Week 1 loss), followed by a 48-point runaway defeat against the Buccaneers in week 2, the Falcons still have a handful of dangerous weapons on both sides of the ball that could pose a series of problems for the Giants.

With each team having its unique set of strengths and weaknesses, on top of the fact that both are going to do everything they can to avoid being 0-3, this NFC clash has the makings of a good one. 

We give you our Week 4 competitive edge picks for the Giants Offense vs. the Falcons Defense in this first of two parts.


Giants Passing Offense

  • Quarterback (Daniel Jones)
  • Running Backs (Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Elijhaa Penny)
  • Tight Ends (Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith)
  • Wide Receivers (Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney, Collin Johnson)
  • Offensive Line (Andrew Thomas, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Billy Price, Ben Bredeson, Matt Peart)

The Giants' passing offense has been solid over the first two games of the season but is far from what it was advertised to be. Led by Jones, the Giants are 16th in passing yards per game (241), 24th in completion percentage (63.8), and near dead last in touchdown passes (2).

Despite such, the Giants looked much better with their passing offense last Thursday night following a rough debut against the Broncos, particularly from Jones himself.

Coming off a disappointing performance against Denver that was characterized by a 59.5 completion percentage, a 90.7 passer rating, and a costly red zone fumble, Jones delivered a much sharper outing against Washington that consisted of a better completion percentage (68.8), an on-the-money 33-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton, and a passer rating of 102.2.

Jones has also kept his interception tally at 0 this season and managed to decrease his bad throws from seven against Denver to three against Washington.

However, a major contributor to the success Jones has been able to achieve goes to the pass blocking improvement from this group of offensive linemen. 

Although losing center Nick Gates for the season to a horrible leg fracture was the last thing they needed, this offensive line still managed to maintain a stout level of protection and provided Jones with 2.76 seconds in the pocket against Washington. 

Though this group did allow four sacks, it was reassuring to see how robust Thomas and Solder were off the edge, holding Chase Young to only a tackle for a loss and Montez Sweat to just one sack and two quarterback hits.

Falcons Pass Defense 

Pass Coverage:

  • Cornerbacks (Fabian Moreau, A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, T.J. Green, Darren Hall, Avery Williams) 
  • Safeties (Duron Harmon, Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins, Richie Grant)

Following the first two weeks of the season, the Falcons lead the league in points allowed per game (40). Whether you are halfway through the season or just two games in, that’s never a good sign.

Though their front seven has certainly not done the best job in containing the run, the Falcons pass defense ranks 19th overall in the league, conceding 260 yards per game while having yet to record a single interception. Add on the fact that they also lead the league in touchdown passes allowed (8) and are 30th in opponent passer rating (131.2), the Falcons pass defense could be in for a very long day against a hungry Giants offense.

At the forefront of this concern is the defensive secondary and how exploitable they have been, particularly their cornerbacks. Outside of Terrell’s impressive showing on the year with a total of two stops, two pass breakups, and an exceptional 42.9 reception percentage, the rest of the unit has fallen short of expectations.

Although he had some good seasons in Washington, the transition to Atlanta for Moreau hasn’t been easy, allowing already seven receptions on ten targets and two touchdowns with only one pass breakup to show for. Though Oliver adds upside to this group, he conceded a touchdown last week and hasn’t been as sharp as the Falcons need him to be.

As for the safeties, Harmon is a three-time Super Bowl champion and a menacing veteran talent playing in his ninth season in the NFL. That said, both he and Harris haven’t been great in coverage in 2021, with each having yet to record a single pass breakup while also averaging a reception percentage of 80.

Pass Rush

  • Edge (Dante Fowler Jr., Steven Means, Brandon Copeland, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner)
  • Defensive Line (Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Bullard, Tyeler Davison, Marlon Davidson, John Cominsky, Ta’Quon Graham)

Working hand-in-hand with their defensive secondary, the Falcons edge rushers are an essential part of this pass defense’s success. Though they haven’t struggled as much as their defensive secondary, this group of edge rushers hasn’t been a whole lot better. 

Aside from their four sacks on the season (three of which came against Tampa Bay), this unit has been off to a quiet start and doesn’t have much depth.

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Leading the pack is Fowler, a menacing edge rush presence who recorded 11.5 sacks for the Rams in 2019 and eight with the Jaguars in 2017. However, Fowler hasn’t been the same since he joined Atlanta last year. 

Though he has looked good over 2021 so far (mustering five total tackles, two hurries, and a significant strip-sack on Brady last Sunday), Fowler had a disappointing debut season in 2020, collecting only 23 total tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble in 14 games.

Though Means has gotten better each year since he came to Atlanta in 2018 (logging 24 total pressures last season alone), he hasn’t been able to generate the same output in 2021.

Tuioti-Mariner brings promising talent to this unit, but Copeland hasn’t made much of his first season in Atlanta given his low snap count. Although they have potential, this group hasn’t lived up to expectations just yet.

Competitive Edge: Giants

With Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates out for the remainder of the season, this Giants pass protection could undoubtedly have difficulty containing Atlanta’s pass rush. But after providing Jones with 2.5 seconds in the pocket against the Broncos and 2.7 seconds against Washington, this offensive line will look to accomplish a similar result against a less dangerous pass rush.

Moreover, Terrell suffered a concussion against Tampa Bay and has yet to practice this week. If he’s out, the Falcons cornerback unit could be in store for a long day.

In addition, the Giants receiving weapons are certainly starting to come into their own. Shepard has been on fire, reeling in a team-high 16 receptions on 19 targets in two games, gathering 113 yards and a touchdown against Denver, and collecting another 94 yards against Washington as well.

To add to it, Evan Engram appears to be on track to return this week and expect Toney and Barkley to become more involved with the creativity they offer. As such, the Giants passing game has a significant advantage over the Falcons pass defense.


Giants Run Offense

  • Quarterback (Daniel Jones)
  • Running Backs (Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Elijhaa Penny)
  • Tight Ends (Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith) 
  • Offensive Line (Andrew Thomas, Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Billy Price, Ben Bredeson)

Over his first two games, Barkley has been a bit of an enigma. His reps have been limited, but even then, he’s looked hesitant on his reads and hasn’t generated much success with his 23 attempts thus far. With no touchdowns to show for and a 3.6 yards-per-carry average over two games, Barkley has yet to find his groove and break out in a big way.

To add to his slow return, Barkley’s had to work with an offensive line that has difficulty creating the space and lanes he needs to thrive and succeed. Outside of a big 41 yard run midway through the first quarter against Washington, Barkley’s night regressed rather quickly, and he was left with 57 rushing yards to show for by the time the game ended.

However, the good news is that Barkley’s use out of the backfield will only increase as his rep count continues to scale upward. And as he faces an Atlanta rush defense that has allowed an average of 127.5 yards per game, Barkley could cash in big and secure his first touchdown of the season.

That said, the most dangerous factor the Giants bring to the table with their running game is their increased integration of RPO plays. Against Washington, Jones put his burners on full display and had himself a night, gathering 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. With that kind of success against Washington, expect offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to implement more of that against the Falcons.

Falcons Run Defense

  • Defensive Line (Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Bullard, Tyeler Davison, Marlon Davidson, John Cominsky, Ta’Quon Graham) 
  • Linebackers (Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Dorian Etheridge)
  • Safeties (Duron Harmon, Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins, Richie Grant)

The Falcons rank 24th against the run and concede a 4.9 yards-per-carry average, which is not exactly the start they were aiming for. That said, their run defense has only allowed one rushing touchdown over two games and possesses some standout talent in guys like Jones, Jarrett, Oluokun, and Davison.

Holding down the defensive line is Jarrett, a Pro Bowler in 2019 and 2020. And the kind of damage he can wreak on his own is truly remarkable. Last season, Jarrett had 52 total tackles, 21 quarterback hits, four sacks, a fumble recovery, and 26 stops. Though he’s off to a bit of a slower start in 2021, with only four total tackles and two stops, Jarrett is a threat at all times, and expect him to lead the charge against the Giants run game.

At linebacker, both Jones and Oluokun make for one scary tandem. Both are by no means great in coverage, but when it comes to shutting down running games, this duo can run with the best of them. 

With Jones already amassing a total of 15 tackles, a sack, and six stops, Oluokun has been just as good if not better, posting a total of 17 tackles (a team-high), six stops (five of which came against Tampa), and a forced fumble as well.

Toss in Harmon’s steady presence up on the line of scrimmage (has three stops on the year), and this Falcons run defense has many playmakers that can change the outcome of a run game.

Competitive Edge: Giants

The Falcons run defense held Leonard Fournette to 52 yards and Ronald Jones to 27 yards. But it was also the same run defense that allowed Miles Sanders to run for 74 yards and Jalen Hurts to rush for an additional 62 yards.

This will be a close battle, but the edge goes to the Giants, and quite understandably so. Barkley is hungry for a big game and needs to change the "feast or famine" perception he has. After two tough defensive matchups in weeks one and two, expect Barkley to take full advantage of Atlanta's weaknesses.

Lastly, Jones’ RPO plays will be a problem for the Falcons on Sunday. Jones’ speed is underrated, and you can expect him to illustrate that once more against the Falcons. As long as he continues to slide or run out of bounds accordingly, expect Jones’ to tap into his inner Josh Allen and continue his rushing dominance.

Check back Saturday for Part 2, Giants Defense vs. Atlanta Offense. 


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