The Giants were looking to catch a break this Monday as Falcons wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu were both banged up last week. But the latest injury report on Saturday had only K Matt Bryant out for Monday's contest.
So, one of the NFL's deadliest wide receiving tandems will be at full strength for QB Matt Ryan to work with. For most defenses, WR Julio Jones is enough to deal with, but Ridley and Sanu make matters worse with the production they have put up so far thi season.
While Jones leads the team in yards for a mile (708), the rookie Ridley leads receivers in touchdowns (6) while Sanu has 303 yards and three touchdowns on the year as well. Jones is still looking for his first touchdown after six weeks.
It is safe to say the Giants' secondary, then, will have a tough matchup on their hands. Tough isn't the word to explain the challenge of containing all three receivers through four quarters.
That is why it won't come down to the secondary being the main key to stopping the Falcons' passing game. Instead, it will be pressure on Ryan in the pocket, and the Giants' best pass rusher can make that happen.
"I'm just trying to go in, know what I have to do as far as assignment wise," said veteran DE Olivier Vernon. "We're playing a really good team and just do what I can for the most part."
Vernon played in his first game of 2018 last week against the Eagles, and he made an immediate impact. For weeks, the Giants didn't have a pass rush, but Vernon changed that throughout the game. He recorded one sack on Carson Wentz, while forcing him to scramble and make quick judgements.
Head coach Pat Shumur praised Vernon's ability to make that much of an impact to kick off his season.
"I think he had some very disruptive reps in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback," he said. "Whether you sack the quarterback or not, pressure is what you're trying to get. He had some really good snaps the other night. The key when you're doing anything a second time like he's going to play only his second game of the year is to build on it and play better."
Vernon can certainly build on his performance considering he was eased back into his role. Practicing in full the past couple days proves that he is ready for a more vigorous workload.
The 28-year-old can't be the only one pressuring Ryan, though. The rest of the line needs to do their job to ensure Ryan doesn't get too comfortable because that would give those receivers more time to run their routes and get open. Right now, the Giants are tied dead last with seven sacks over six games.
But, along with himself, Vernon is confident his teammates are ready to make an impact.
"At the end of the day, if pressures equal a turnover, that's still as good as somebody getting a sack, so guys are getting it, they're fighting, trying to win their one-on-ones, they're getting back in the backfield trying to disrupt the quarterback," he explained. "If they're putting the pressure on and we're putting the pressure on the quarterback, as a defense as a unit, everything else is going to fall into place."
The Giants need everything to fall into place to steal a win on the road in a primetime game. After falling to 1-5 last week, Vernon didn't care about his good production.
"Not really because we didn't really win, so all of that kind of gets voided. I'd rather have gotten the win," Vernon said when asked if he was happy with how he performed. "That probably means a lot more."
It doesn't probably mean more. If the Giants want to stay relevant this season, it means everything this week.