EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 29: Dalvin Tomlinson #94 and B.J. Hill #95 of the New York Giants celebrates a sack of Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Redskins during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard out, the New York Giants will need to rely heavily on their defense this Sunday.

Jason Leach

After two weeks, it’s safe to say the New York Giants defense has been the best unit on the team. The group has allowed 43 points and is fourth in average yards allowed at 326.5 per game. The pass rush has also made an impact — the Giants have recorded six sacks in their first two matchups.

In contrast, the offense has struggled mightily and is averaging just 293.0 yards per game. The unit’s 29 total-point mark is last in the NFL. Perhaps worst of all is that Daniel Jones‘ turnover woes from last season are rearing its ugly head again, as the second-year quarterback has already committed four in 2020.

Some will say the success of the defense comes from the fact that they’ve yet to play an offensive juggernaut. Nonetheless, you still need to give defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his unit credit for at least keeping the Giants in their two games.

Big Blue will need another solid effort from its defense this Sunday when the team takes on the (1-1) San Francisco 49ers. Saquon Barkley is out for the season with a torn ACL and receiver Sterling Shepard will sit for at least the next three weeks with turf toe.

The offense hasn’t been able to score 20 points thus far on the season and scoring will be even more difficult without the two aforementioned weapons. The defense might need to score points on its own and have its best performance on Sunday if the Giants plan to come away with their first win of the season.

The defense should feel confident considering its playing against a depleted 49ers team.

As much as the Giants have been decimated by injuries, the 49ers have been hit even harder, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo along with running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman were unable to practice on Wednesday. Tight end George Kittle, on the other hand, was limited with a knee injury.

As of right now, it seems unlikely Garoppolo, Mostert, and Coleman will play, which means the 49ers could be without their quarterback and top two running backs.

The 49ers were able to defeat the New York Jets last Sunday at MetLife Stadium 31-13 despite playing without Kittle, and Garoppolo, Mostert, and Coleman suffering injuries in the game.

The Giants are a better team than the Jets though, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Big Blue’s defensive line rotation of Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, B.J. Hill, and Austin Johnson should be able to contain Jerick McKinnon or whomever the 49ers have running the ball.

Shutting down San Francisco’s run game will be pivotal for the Giants, because if they can do that, they’ll thus force backup quarterback Nick Mullens to beat them if Garoppolo can’t go. Mullens would be making just his ninth career start and has thrown 13 touchdowns against 11 interceptions up to this point.

The Giants have played against Mullens before — they defeated him and the 49ers in Week 10 of the 2018 season by a score of 27-23. Now, it looks as if they’ll see him again on Sunday.

On Wednesday, head coach Joe Judge was asked if the uncertainy of which quarterback will play will complicate his team’s preparation.

“First off on Mullens, one thing he does an extremely good job of is you can spread the field out with him,” Judge said. “He gets the ball out of his hand extremely fast. He’s a guy who turns two, as we say. The ball hits his hand, ball is coming out and he’s getting it to the receiver. He has very good anticipation, he does a good job pre-snap really reading the defense, knowing where his receivers are going to be. He’s a tough, gritty dude.”

“He obviously had some success for them in the past when he’s had to play,” he added. “As far as if it’s Jimmy or Mullens, to be honest with you, you have to have a little bit of a plan for both. What they may do may be dictated based on who’s at the game. These are conversations that we’re having as coaches, that we are putting a plan together for the players. You want to kind of get it to them in basic increments that you’re not double installing everything at once for the players.”

No matter who plays behind center for San Fran on Sunday, Judge and Graham will have the defense ready for whatever the 49ers throw the team’s way.

In each of the last two seasons, the Giants won their third game to avoid going 0-3. If they’re going to do the same this year, it’s going to take a strong performance from their defense.

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