The New York Giants defense has performed horrifically in the first two weeks. This week, the Giants face former NFL MVP Matt Ryan. The Atlanta Falcons are at a similar bump in the road as the Giants, sitting at 0-2 and last in their division. For both teams, this is a must-win game before they embark on their journey against tougher opponents. The Giants need a bounce-back game on the defensive side of the ball, which was their strong point last year.
How the New York Giants Can Slow Down Matt Ryan
Get Pressure Early
One of the aspects of the Giants’ defense that has underwhelmed so far is their ability to sack the quarterback. The Giants ranked 13th in that category last year with 40. Other than two quarterback hits, million-dollar pass-rusher Leonard Williams has disappeared. Rookie Azeez Ojulari is the sack leader on the team with two, as of right now. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines have been non-existent thus far.
The interior of the defensive line needs to attack rookie Jalen Mayfield and second-year center Matt Hennessy. Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary are playing well thus far, so they may stonewall Carter, Ojulari, and Ximines. Right guard Chris Lindstrom has also been a bright spot thus far on the Falcons’ offensive line.
As he goes up against the Giants, Matt Ryan is no longer his former MVP self. His arm talent is declining at age 36, as the clock is ticking on his time in Atlanta. Besides pressure from the interior, the Giants will need to send blitzes to make Ryan feel uneasy. However, they also need to cover the backend for the defensive game plan to work.
Let The Cornerbacks Get Physical
The Giants signed Adoree Jackson in the offseason to be the second cornerback, replacing Isaac Yiadom. The assumption was they also signed him so the defense can play more man coverage and blitz more.
In Week 1, Pat Shurmur exploited the defense with a game plan for throwing over the middle. Multiple tackles were missed and assignments were blown. Denver won 27-13.
The following week, Patrick Graham reverted back to a zone-like game plan against the Washington Football Team. Unfortunately, he had James Bradberry play more than five yards off of an assigned receiver, which made him look worse than he actually was. Bradberry gave up 11 receptions, 107 yards, and a touchdown to Terry McLaurin.
Graham needs to find a happy medium of zone and man coverage in his game plan. The zone coverage scheme is good for defending over the middle against tight ends like Kyle Pitts. However, he needs to trust his expensive cornerbacks to be physical on the defensive side of the ball.
Calvin Ridley will likely match up against Bradberry this week. It is unlikely Atlanta takes a ton of deep shots, but the defense cannot give easy yards to Atlanta’s receivers.
Limit Any Ground Game
A quarterback’s best friend is a healthy ground game. Based on the first two weeks, the Giants rank near the bottom of the league in defending the run, something they excelled at last season. With Dalvin Tomlinson gone and Danny Shelton being moved off of the ball easily, the jobs of Blake Martinez, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams have gotten difficult.
Atlanta’s rushing offense ranks 23rd in the NFL at 89.5 rushing yards per game. Their backfield features Mike Davis, Cordarelle Patterson, and former Giant, Wayne Gallman. Davis is their leading rusher with 87 carries on 24 yards, gaining 3.7 yards per attempt.
Due to the defense’s lack of performance, the Giants cannot underestimate the potential threat of Atlanta’s rushing attack. Gap discipline and tackling early are keys to limit the ground game. If the defense can accomplish that, they can make Atlanta’s offense one-dimensional.
Sunday’s game is a big test for the defensive players and coordinator Patrick Graham. The questions remain whether he can game plan accordingly against a pocket quarterback with quality targets and a subpar backfield. The Giants need to dial up pressure on Matt Ryan, let their cornerbacks play a physical game, and limit the ground game. Otherwise, the Giants defense will have another long day ahead of them as Matt Ryan could pick their defense apart.
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