EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will seek their first victory of the season when they host the Atlanta Falcons in their first MetLife Stadium game of the season. The teams experienced vastly different emotions on Kickoff Weekend. The Giants fell in the final seconds to the Cowboys in Dallas, 27-26, while Atlanta defeated the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Monday night, 26-24.
The Giants-Falcons regular-season series is tied, 11-11. The Giants will host Atlanta for the second consecutive season. On Oct. 5, 2014, the Giants overcame a three-point halftime deficit to defeat the Falcons, 30-20. Rookies Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. (who made his NFL debut) scored the Giants' second-half touchdowns.
ATLANTA FALCONS OFFENSE
The Falcons have a new head coach in Dan Quinn, the former defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. The offensive coordinator is Kyle Shanahan, who previously held the same position in Houston, Washington and Cleveland. Atlanta had a high-powered offense last season (eighth overall, fifth in passing yardage), and its 395 yards vs. Philly was the league's fourth-highest total on opening weekend.
The Falcons have numerous playmakers, and Shanahan is trying to stretch the field off their play-action game. Atlanta's receivers run as many deep routes as any group in the NFL.
Eight-year veteran Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback. Last year, he completed 66 percent of his passes and threw for 4,694 yards and 28 touchdowns. Ryan is a timing and rhythm passer with good arm strength and accuracy. He has deceptive athletic ability and moves well in the pocket. Ryan has thrown for at least 200 yards in 32 consecutive road games, an NFL record. Backup Sean Renfree has no regular-season playing time.
The Falcons no longer have running back Stephen Jackson and now start rookie third-round draft choice Tevin Coleman, who ran for a game-high 80 yards on Monday, when he demonstrated a good burst to the edge. Devonta Freeman is an improving runner and receiver with speed and elusiveness. Terron Ward is the third running back. Fullback Patrick DiMarco is smart and instinctive and possesses a good feel for angles to position blocks.
Julio Jones and Roddy White form one of the NFL's great receiving tandems. Jones was selected the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Eagles. Last year, 31 of his 104 catches gained 20 or more yards and his 106.2 receiving yards per game were second in the league to Odell Beckham Jr.'s 108.8. Jones is a big, strong, athletic playmaker with outstanding run-after-the-catch ability. White, who had 80 receptions last season, is crafty and possesses good coverage awareness. He is adept at shielding defenders from the ball. No. 3 receiver Leonard Hankerson has good size, big hands and long arms, and is a consistent post-up target. Devin Hester was inactive vs. Philadelphia with a toe injury. Nick Williams, Justin Hardy and Eric Weems complete the wide receiver corps.
Playmakers on Falcons first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
Tight end Jacob Tamme is a smart veteran with good skills and hands. His backup, Levine Toilolo, is a big blocker with upper body strength and toughness.
Tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are the only returning starters on the offensive line. Matthews, who was Atlanta's first-round draft choice in 2014, has good feet and athletic ability on the left side. Schraeder is a second-year starter and is an improving player who is steady in pass protection. Left guard Andy Levitre was obtained in a trade with Tennessee on Sept. 4. He has an exceptionally strong upper body but also displays solid athleticism and pull/trap ability. Levitre consistently demonstrates toughness and competitiveness. Right guard Chris Chester has the ability to turn defenders. Joe Hawley was expected to be the center, but he was released on Sept. 7.
Former guard Mike Person now plays center. Person can play all five line positions, and is effective at center in the Falcons' zone blocking scheme. Gino Gradkowksi, claimed off waivers when Hawley was cut, was inactive Monday but could work his way into the rotation. Tyler Polumbus is a backup at both tackle spots. This week, the Falcons signed Jake Long, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. He is expected to start out as Matthews' backup.
ATLANTA FALCONS DEFENSE
Quinn has installed a defensive scheme very similar to the one that helped the Seahawks advance to the last two Super Bowls.
The Falcons' first two draft choices were defensive players, end Vic Beasley Jr. and cornerback Jalen Collins, who fit right into a unit built with speed and quickness. Atlanta used a variety of four-man fronts, based on the situation, against Philadelphia.
Beasley, one of just two FBS players to have double-digit sacks in each of the previous two seasons, is starting at end (like most of the Falcons' linemen, he plays more than one position). He is quick-footed off the edge with speed, and has a quick inside spin. Tyson Jackson, the other end, is a physical player at the point of attack with strength, toughness and competitiveness. Tackle Paul Soliai is a strong anchor who creates piles in the run game. Ra'Shede Hageman has a strong upper body with physical hands. Jonathan Babineaux is a versatile backup with a high motor and good vision and instincts. Adrian Clayborn is a free agent acquisition with impressive pass rush skills. Malliciah Goodman displays good speed and range vs. the run. Rookie Grady Jarrett and veteran Kroy Biermann complete the group.
Middle linebacker Paul Worrilow is a productive every-snap player with a good burst inside. He is a solid run defender who led the Falcons with 142 tackles in 2014 and 13 Monday night. Nine-year veteran Justin Durant, who played the previous two seasons in Dallas, has a knack for avoiding blockers and plays with good speed and range. O'Brien Schofield can play both linebacker and end. He has a sound pass rush plan and penetrates quickly vs. the run. Brooks Reed, a former Houston Texan, would likely start, but he is not expected to play after undergoing groin surgery. Nate Stupar has good movement and change of direction skills. Joplo Bartu and former Giant Allen Bradford could also contribute.
The unquestioned leader of the secondary is cornerback Desmond Trufant, who has very good football instincts, recognition, speed and range, and competes for the ball in all coverages. Robert Alford is a productive presence on the outside or in the slot. William Moore is a veteran strong safety who is a good fit for Quinn's defense. He is a big hitter in the Brandon Meriweather mold, a smart, savvy leader who is quick to diagnose a play and locate the ball. Free safety Ricardo Allen has good closing quickness. Collins is a press corner, and Philip Adams played a lot in sub defenses in Week 1. Kemal Ishmael and Robenson Therezie are the backup safeties.
ATLANTA FALCONS SPECIAL TEAMS
Matt Bryant, who began his career with the Giants in 2002, handles only the field goals and extra points. Since joining the Falcons in 2009, he has made 152 of 171 field goal attempts (88.9 percent). He kicked four field goals vs. Philadelphia, the shortest of which was 39 yards. Matt Bosher is the punter and kickoff specialist. He had an outstanding 51.5-yard net average on four punts against the Eagles. Bosher is one of the NFL's best punters. He has very good leg strength to create multiple touchbacks on kickoffs and flip field position as a punter. Bosher is also a good pooch punter.
Hester owns the NFL records for total return touchdowns (20) and punt return scores (14). Until he returns, Weems is handling the punt and kickoff return duties. He is an aggressive player with good catch mechanics and the ability to track the ball. Nick Williams is another candidate to return.