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Tape Study

Tape Study: What to expect from the Falcons

View the projected starters for Monday's game against the Falcons.

When the Giants play in Atlanta on Monday night, they will be taking on one of the best offensive teams in football. The Falcons will be without their starting running back Devonta Freeman, and could also be missing wide receivers Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip). Atlanta is missing even more top players on defense. Here's what to expect from the Falcons on Monday night.

When the Falcons have the ball…

The Spotlight: Quarterback Matt Ryan

Ryan is a traditional pocket passer who throws an accurate ball and leads an effective Falcons offensive attack. Ryan reads the field well, makes good, quick decisions and can throw the ball to all levels of the field efficiently. He is a top ten quarterback in the NFL.

Ryan is comfortable in the pocket and is adept at sliding around to avoid the rush. He is not especially mobile and won't make any moves to avoid free rushers, or outrun anyone to escape the pocket. When Ryan has been ineffective this year, like in the first half of the Steelers game two weeks ago, he has been pressured and forced off his spot.

Inside the Numbers: Matt Ryan has the highest pressure rate in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, at 36.9%. When Ryan is not under pressure, he has a 75.5% completion rate, 10 touchdowns, just one interception and a 120.6 quarterback rating. If you give him time, he is among the best quarterbacks in football. When blitzed, his quarterback rating drops to 84.54.

Ryan does not have the strongest arm in the league and he often relies on touch more than velocity when getting the ball downfield. He does have the arm strength to make all the throws, thanks to his excellent anticipation and ball placement. If you leave a receiver open and he has time, he will find them and make big plays.

Inside the Numbers: Matt Ryan is 5thin the NFL in passing yards per game, tied for 4th in touchdown passes (14), 5thin completion percentage (69.6% amongst qualifiers), and 3rdin quarterback rating (113.6). His two interceptions is tied for fourth fewest in the league.

The Matchup: Wide Receiver Julio Jones

In his 8th season, Jones is still one of the top wide receivers in football. At 6-3 and 220 pounds with elite speed and excellent route running, Jones is a nightmare for cornerbacks to cover man to man. He can separate at the top of the route, make contested catches, and beat opponents over the top. There's little he can't do.

Inside the Numbers: Jones has the second-most receiving yards this year with 707 (Adam Thielin of Minnesota has 712) and is tied for the 6th most catches with 44. He averages an impressive 16.1 yards per catch. Fifteen (15) of Jones' 65 targets have been 20 yards or more down the field. Nine have been catchable and he has come up with seven of them for 256 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones' 3.17 yards per route run is second in the NFL to only DeSean Jackson (among qualifying WR's), which is an excellent indicator of a receiver's production.

Janoris Jenkins will again most likely get the assignment of lining up with the Falcons top wide receiver. Jones lines up almost primarily on the perimeter (just 20% of his snaps come in the slot) and he runs the entire route tree. Even with top cornerbacks covering him, opposing teams often give help over the top with a safety to his side of the field to prevent big plays. They'll use Jones on deep-outs and in-cuts, hooks, shallow crosses, deep posts, go routes, corner routes and double moves. Much like the Giants use Odell Beckham Jr., the Falcons like to try to get Jones on the move in space using shallow crossing routes.

He’s fast, he’s physical, he can run every route, as we all know, great hands, and a quarterback that gives him the ball. We have to stay on point, lock in and play football. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins

Jones has struggled in two areas this season: scoring touchdowns and drops. Despite all of his production, Jones has not yet scored a touchdown. Opponents often dedicate more than one player to monitor him in the red zone. He also has three drops, according to Pro Football Focus.

_Inside the Numbers: _Jones' 707 receiving yards is the most in Falcons franchise history without scoring a touchdown. The next closest receiver in the NFL in terms of yards gained without a touchdown is Pierre Garcon with just 225. The NFL record for most receiving yards to start a season without a touchdown is Keyshawn Johnson, who had 976 back in 2001.

Offensive Scheme and Tendencies:

It is hard to over-emphasize how essential wide receiver Calvin Ridley's presence is to the Falcons offense, and how important his injury status on Monday night is going to be. When opposing teams double team or throw extra attention to Jones, it leaves Ridley in one on one coverage. The rookie from Alabama is very difficult to cover one on one. He has the quickness, speed, and route running precision to create consistent separation. The Falcons have done a good job lining him up all over the place and using formations to get him a free release at the line. His potential absence, along with possibly fellow receiver Mohemad Sanu's, could really help the Giants in this game.

Inside the Numbers: The Falcons are the second-best third-down team in the league, at 49.37%. Their number is so good because of their success on third and long. On third down plays of 7 or more yards, they are best in the league, converting 47% of their opportunities. On third down plays of 10 or more yards, they are third best in the league, converting 30% of those attempts. Those numbers show just how efficient their passing attack is.

The Falcons run a lot of play action, especially when they have big offensive personnel on the field. They will use a lot of two or even three tight end sets, and use a fullback (Ricky Ortiz) more than a lot of NFL teams. They love to run play action off some of those bigger formations, and try to make big plays down the field to their wide receivers, even throwing back across the field. Play action is a huge part of their passing attack and Giants safeties and linebackers will have to be very disciplined in defending it.

It’s a big play action team, honestly. They’ll hit you with the misdirections, fake runs and stuff like that. You got to play with great technique, great eyes. You do that, you’re better off. Safety Landon Collins

Tight end Austin Hooper has been a reliable check down option for Matt Ryan in the passing game. He has 30 catches on just 36 targets for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hooper isn't going to beat anyone with blazing speed, but he is dependable.

Inside the Numbers: The Falcons have just three giveaways, the fewest in football. The Giants have only 5 takeaways this season, the second fewest in the NFL. The Falcons red zone offense is tied for fourth best in the NFL, converting touchdowns 69.57% of the time, while the Giants red zone defense ranks 7th in the league at 44%. 

The loss of Devonta Freeman robs the Falcons of their most physical running back, but they still have a very capable and explosive Tevin Coleman to carry the ball. Coleman is someone they like to get to the perimeter with pitch plays. He has the speed to take any carry the distance. Ito Smith is a small, but elusive back who is built more for third downs than every-down duty.

Inside the Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, Tevin Coleman's 43.1 breakaway percentage is 9th in the league amongst running backs with 30 or more carries. PFF has Ito Smith with the 9th highest Elusive Rating (82.7%) amongst running backs with at least 30 carries, which takes into consideration the number of missed tackles a running back forces.

The Falcons offensive line has one of the best left tackles (Jake Matthews) and centers (Alex Mack) in football, but they have struggled protecting Matt Ryan this season. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder, usually reliable, has allowed three sacks, 8 quarterback hits and 19 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Right guard Brandon Fusco has given up one sack, three hits, and 10 hurries.

Inside the Numbers: The Falcons have a lot more success running right than left. Running at the right guard, right tackle, or to the right edge, the Falcons have 228 yards on 40 carries, good for 5.7 yards per carry. Running to the same areas to the left, the Falcons average only have 128 yards on 48 carries. The Giants left outside linebacker and left defensive end will be challenged all game. The Falcons struggle running the ball overall, averaging just 3.77 yards per play, 27th in the league.

Three Keys for the Giants When The Falcons Have The Ball:

1.    Pressure Matt Ryan

2.    Be disciplined against play action

3.    Prevent chunk plays to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley

When the Giants have the ball:

The Spotlight: Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett

Jarrett has missed the Falcons last two games with an ankle injury but has been extremely active when he has been on the field. Jarett has will line up at three technique and will be matched up with Patrick Omameh and Will Hernandez.

Though he doesn't receive the fanfare of players like Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald and Gerald McCoy, Jarrett is nearly as disruptive in the pass game and especially the run game. He has the combination of strength and quickness to get into the backfield and force negative plays. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, he is their highest-graded healthy defender.

Inside the Numbers: Even though Jarrett doesn't have a sack, he does have four quarterback hits and 11 hurries in just four games, according to Pro Football Focus. He is PFF's 16th highest graded defensive tackle overall, and their 15th best run defender.

The Matchup: Giants WR's vs Falcons CB's

The Giants wide receivers matchup with the Falcons cornerbacks could be the ultimate equalizer in this game. The Giants will need to figure out a way to hang with the Falcons high-powered offense, and the Giants will have to win outside to do it.

The Falcons have asked their cornerbacks to cover man to man a lot this season, even against dangerous receiving corps like the Steelers, Buccaneers and Bengals. The last time the Giants played against a lot of man to man defense was against the Texans in Week 3 when they had their best throwing game of the season.

Desmond Trufant is Atlanta's best cover cornerback, but he usually won't travel with the opponent's top receiver. He plays primarily on the outside but has been in the slot a couple of times this year. Brian Poole is their primary slot cornerback. Robert Alford is the Falcons second outside cornerback.

Inside the Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus' player tracking, Alford has given up three touchdowns this season and has only three pass breakups. Quarterbacks have completed 22 of 35 passes in his direction for 313 yards and a 120.3 quarterback rating. Brian Poole has given up a quarterback rating of 121.1 while allowing 280 passing yards and four touchdowns on 25 of 35 passing with four pass breakups and one interception. Poole is PFF's fourth-worst graded defender on the Falcons. Trufant, though the best of the group, has allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 108.3 and 283 passing yards with two touchdowns. He has broken up five passes.

Defensive Schemes and Tendencies

The Falcons are primarily a single high safety team and try to disguise whether they are in Cover 1, man to man defense, Cover 3, or some other zone. Their deep safety in the middle of the field is Damontae Kazee, who has done a fairly good job tracking the ball in the air this season and playing sideline to sideline. Safety Jordan Richards plays closer to the line of scrimmage. The Eagles had success last week running Cover 6 with a safety dedicated to Odell Beckham Jr's side of the field. I wonder if the Falcons might try some of that this week. If the Falcons copy what other teams have used against the Giants this year, expect a lot of Cover 3 zone.

They’re a good scheme on defense. They don’t bring tons of pressure, but they will a little bit. So, they try to mix it up. They try to mix up their zone, their man, to keep you off balance. We just got to have plays that are good versus both of them. They’re mostly a single-high team (coverage). We’ll be prepared for everything. Giants Quarterback Eli Manning

The Falcons will also show some 2 deep with man under (Cover 5), which features two deep safeties over the top with everyone else playing man to man defense. They'll use this at different times throughout the game, but they might be hesitant to use it against the Giants since it would present a light box to defend against Saquon Barkley.

Inside the Numbers: The Falcons defense ranks near the bottom of the league in several key categories. No other team has allowed more offensive points (185). Only one other team has forced fewer runs for negative yardage (4). No teams have given up a higher rate of third down conversions (56%). Only one team allows more average yards per play on first down (7.14). Only two teams have a worse red zone touchdown rate (78%). Only two teams have allowed more plays of 10 or more yards (98). No one has allowed more touchdown drives (24). Only two teams have allowed more yards per game (417.5).

The Falcons have struggled to create a pass rush up front, especially with Grady Jarrett hurt their last two games. They will run some twists and stunts with their ends and tackles, especially over the right guard and right tackle. Defensive lineman Derrick Shelby might return from injury this week, and rotational defensive tackle Jack Crawford flashed a nice inside spin move against the Bengals.

Defensive end Vic Beasley, the Falcons first round pick (8th overall) in 2015, has only one sack. He's a little undersized at 6-3 and 246 pounds and wins with speed outside. He'll line up primarily over Nate Solder. Takkarist McKinley, the Falcons 2017 first round pick (27th overall), has five sacks and has flashed power. He got a sack rushing from the defensive tackle position a few weeks ago. He'll line up over Chad Wheeler.

Inside The Numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, in 304 pass rush snaps, Beasley has only two quarterback hits and 14 hurries to go with his one sack. PFF has Beasley graded as the team's second worst defender. In 80 fewer pass rush opportunities, McKinley has five sacks, one quarterback hit and 10 hurries.

The losses of linebacker Deion Jones, safety Ricardo Allen and safety Keanu Neal -- three of the Falcons best defenders -- has really crippled them. De'Veondre Campbell has stepped in at middle linebacker for Jones. Duke Riley, the team's third round pick in 2017, is playing fine in coverage but he is still very light and struggles in the running game.

Atlanta will bring a blitz occasionally from cornerbacks, safeties or a linebacker situated near the line of scrimmage. They will bring an extra player, maybe two, but don't like to leave their secondary exposed in zero coverage.

Inside the Numbers: Blitzing has not worked out well for the Falcons, with opposing quarterbacks accumulating a 132.27 quarterback rating when Atlanta brings extra players in pressure situations.

The Bengals gave the Falcons all sorts of problems running screens for their running backs, tight ends and wide receivers, which may presen big-play opportunities for Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley.

Giants Keys to Victory:

*Keys When The Giants Have The Ball: *

1.    Protect Eli Manning

2.    Avoid Negative Plays and Turnovers

3.    Get Chunk Plays

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