Let’s be blunt about it, Eli Manning has been awful through six weeks of the season. Some of that has to do with poor protection, but a lot if it has to do with the fact that he is on the last leg of his NFL career. The Giants may have held on just a year too long, and this game may serve as his last opportunity to prove he can still be a reliable starting quarterback.
Because if he can’t put up big numbers against Atlanta’s defense, the Giants might have to seriously consider making a move. Since the Falcons lost Deion Jones and Keanu Neal in week one, quarterbacks have been able to do whatever they wanted. In those five weeks, Cam Newton finished with the lowest passing total, and that was 335 yards!
New York’s line shouldn’t have too much trouble stopping a Falcons pass rush that has been non-existent the entire season. We all know the Giants have the weapons at the skill positions to be successful. Now, Manning will have time facing a vulnerable secondary, leaving no excuse for him not to blow up the stat sheet.
The good news for the Falcon Faithful: Grady Jarrett practiced on Thursday, and the Falcons are hopeful he will be ready to return this week. That would be a huge boost to a unit that is in desperate need of one.
As bad as Atlanta’s defense was with him, it got noticeably worse these last two weeks with him absent, particularly against the run. Prior to the week in Pittsburgh, the Falcons had not allowed a single player rush for more than 70 yards against them. Without Jarrett, James Connor torched Atlanta for 110 yards rushing on 21 carries. Connor hadn’t run for 100 yards combined in his three previous games.
Last week, Atlanta allowed Peyton Barber total 82 yards on just 13 carries.
Jarrett alone can put an end to that. He’s a pro-bowl caliber defensive tackle that excels at stopping the run and creating pressure from the interior defensive line. There’s no doubt, even after missing a couple weeks, that he will be an immediate impact player once he returns.
Robert Alford/Desmond Trufant
Alford has bumped himself into the conversation for the best corner on the team over the last couple of seasons. The penalty issues that plagued him early in his career, have mightily improved, and he’s proven he can cover the best in the game one-on-one.
Trufant used to be a top corner in the NFL and Pro-Bowler but has lost a step or two since the shoulder injury he suffered back in 2016. The hope is, at 28 years old, he can return to the same level of play we saw in his first three seasons.
Regardless, both of these guys will get their shot against one of the league’s best, Odell Beckham Jr.. Beckham has had a frustrating season in New York and has yet to catch a touchdown pass. However, a lot of that has to do with the Giants inability to throw the ball down the field because of their poor offensive line. Manning will have some time to throw on Monday, which will put a lot of pressure on both of these corners.
The Falcons pass rush may be poor, but they have plenty of reason to be excited about Takkarist McKinley. Last year, he combined for 8 sacks in both the regular season and playoffs and that was with a lingering groin issue. He came into this season healthier, with a year of experience under his belt and sky-high expectations.
So far, he has yet to disappoint. In just five games, he’s already racked up 4.5 sacks, proving to be the Falcons best pass-rusher by far. There probably won’t be a ton of times you see Eli Manning end up on the ground, but if he does, Tak will probably be celebrating right next to him.
The Falcons didn’t enter the season expecting they were going to have to start their sixth-round pick this early, or at all for that matter. Oluokun was clearly a special teams and depth addition out of Yale but has quickly become a starter. That’s the kind of year it has been for Atlanta injury-wise.
Duke Riley has been a major disappointment filling for Deion Jones, which has resulted in an increase of snaps each week for Oluokun. His performance has been less than spectacular, grading out as a 48.2 according to Pro Football Focus; however, the Falcons are going to need him to step up in a major way when facing Saquon Barkley.
Atlanta’s biggest weakness this year has been tackling by a wide margin. The Giants will be looking to get the #2 overall pick out in space in the run game and the passing game, forcing linebackers to make plays in the open field. There are few better at making people miss than Barkley, so it is going to be up to players like Oluokon to play their best game of the season to slow down the New York offense.
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