3 Takeaways from Giants' Week 3 Loss
We're three weeks into the 2021 NFL season, and the New York Giants remain winless. A team that built momentum late in the 2020 season has none following Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. New York ground its way to a 14-7 fourth-quarter lead but couldn't hold Matt Ryan and the Falcons in check in the final period.
New York now finds itself searching for answers heading into a Week 4 matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
Is Daniel Jones good enough to be New York's long-term starter? Can offensive coordinator Jason Garrett find ways to get his unit going? Is Saquon Barkley ever going to be the same star running back he was as a rookie in 2018?
Unfortunately, the Giants don't know how or when questions like these will be answered. Sunday's game didn't provide any clarity. Here's what we did learn during New York's Week 3 loss to Atlanta.
Barkley Is Not Back as a Runner
Let's start with the positive surrounding Barkley. He's barely a year removed from a torn ACL and is back on the field. He's also chipping in wonderfully as a pass-catcher—he had six receptions for 43 yards on Sunday.
However, Barkley is not the same game-breaking runner he was as a rookie or in spurts in 2019. He notched his first rushing touchdown of the season against the Falcons but has yet to show signs of being special.
"There's definitely more to go," Barkley said, per Andrew Crane of the New York Post. "I can see it, my teammates can see it, they've been telling me that it's coming. I'm starting to look like myself again.”
Barkley averaged just 3.2 yards per carry against an Atlanta defense ranked 24th in yards per carry allowed. He has averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the first three weeks. Right now, he isn't the same playmaker that New York drafted second overall in 2018.
Barkley may get back to being an elite runner this season, but he isn't there yet. If he were, New York would have walked away from Sunday's game with a win. Things are not going to get easier against New Orleans and its third-ranked run defense.
This Offense Lacks Identity, Rhythm
The Giants were led by their defense in 2020, and that remains the case three weeks into 2021. New York ranks a respectable 16th in points allowed but only 24th in points scored. The defense, which allowed just 296 yards and 17 points, played well enough to win against Atlanta. The offense did not.
The Giants offense has lacked cohesion all season. Part of the problem is that it cannot rely on Barkley to carry the ground game. Garrett also seems unable to provide his unit with an identity. There is not one aspect of New York's offense that is going to strike fear in opposing defenses, no go-to weapon that must be contained.
Statistically, Sunday's performance was not terrible. New York generated 100 yards on the ground and 346 yards of total offense. However, the group stalled too often, and only three of 10 drives ended with points.
Jones is part of the problem, too, as new weapons like Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney have not made him even an above-average starter. His pocket presence and ball security remain lacking—he didn't turn the ball over but did fumble twice—and he isn't consistent enough to back off opposing secondaries.
Unfortunately, the Giants offense looks a lot like it did without Barkley last season—a unit incapable of taking over games when it has to.
Kadarius Toney Isn't Ready to Make an Impact
The good news is that Golladay is starting to find chemistry with Jones. The prized free-agent addition caught four passes on five targets for 64 yards on Sunday. The same cannot be said for rookie first-round pick Toney, however.
Toney caught two passes for 16 yards, bringing his season total to four receptions and 14 yards.
While Toney was a raw prospect coming out of Florida, most expected him to have a bigger impact, if even only as a gadget player. However, he's been an offensive afterthought and has only seen 35 percent of the team's offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.
Toney missed much of camp with an undisclosed injury and being on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That has contributed to his slow start. However, the reality is that he isn't ready to be a significant piece of New York's offensive game plan.
It's a disappointing reality for a team that needs players to contribute now. However, it's likely going to be some time before Toney is the offensive game-changer he was drafted to be.