Sep 052003
 

Approach to the Game – St. Louis Rams at New York Giants, September 7, 2003: Of the first three games the Giants play, this is the least important because the next two are against divisional opponents. But the Giants can make a League-wide statement by soundly defeating the Rams on Sunday, as well as elevate their own confidence level. However, beating St. Louis will not be easy. The Rams are loaded at the skill positions on offense and fortified their offensive line in the offseason. They have issues in the defensive backfield, but look for the Rams to attack QB Kerry Collins early in often in order to prevent him from taking advantage of those weaknesses.

Giants on Defense: What the Giants aspire to be offensively is where the Rams have already been. They are an extremely dangerous team with top players at quarterback (Kurt Warner), halfback (Marshall Faulk), and wide receiver (Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt). It doesn’t get much better than that. The offensive potential of the Rams last year was sabotaged due to injuries and a deterioration of the offensive line. However, St. Louis beefed up their line with offseason acquisitions RT Kyle Turley and OC Dave Wohlabaugh.

As always, the key to defeating the Rams is to get a lot of heat on Warner with the pass rush, as well as not letting Marshall Faulk get going on the ground. A huge match-up will be DE Michael Strahan versus Turley. The good news is that Strahan has played well against Turley in the past, but the bad news is that Strahan has not played in a single game all preseason. He must be rusty and how rusty he will be most likely will be a key factor in the game. DT Keith Hamilton will most likely see many double-teams from Wohlabaugh and LG Andy McCollum. If so, it is very important for DT Cornelius Griffin to have a big game against Pro Bowl RG Adam Timmerman. All-World LT Orlando Pace missed much of camp due to a holdout. DE Kenny Holmes has played well at times against him in the past. Obviously, the Giants need another solid effort. Expect to see DE Keith Washington, DE Osi Umenyiora, and DT William Joseph rotated into the line-up, especially if the Rams put together some long drives.

There were articles in the press this summer that the Giants would implement a new “Big Dime” defense that would put SS Shaun Williams at linebacker, along with MLB Mike Barrow. These two would be the only “linebackers” in the game. In the secondary, the team would have two safeties (Omar Stoutmire and Johnnie Harris) and three corners (Will Allen, Will Peterson, and Ralph Brown). The Rams would seem to be a perfect opponent for the “Big Dime”. However, for this defense to work, the Giants MUST be able to stop Faulk on the ground armed with only two linebackers. What’s also a little scary is that, due to injuries to safeties Williams and Harris, the Giants were never able to practice the “Big Dime” during the preseason.

Rams’ Head Coach Mike Martz will most likely try to attack and exploit nickel back Ralph Brown and the Giants’ linebackers in coverage. Opposing teams did not game-plan against Brown in the preseason. Now, were going to see just how good (or bad) Brown is. If I’m Giants’ Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn, I try like hell to scheme for Will Peterson and Will Allen to cover Bruce and Holt. But at some point in the game, Brown is most likely going to have to cover one or both of these guys. Getting Faulk matched up a linebacker could also be a problem. Mike Barrow has done well against Faulk in the past, but he is getting older. Brandon Short doesn’t have the agility to stay with Faulk in my opinion. This is why the “Big Dime” would be attractive against the Rams.

The Rams are obviously a big play offense. Don’t let Faulk get going on the ground. Get pressure on Warner. Tackle well as the Rams’ receivers make a lot of their yardage after the catch. The Giants have to be a bit wary of blitzing too much up the middle as an outside pitch play or pass to Faulk could prove deadly.

Giants on Offense: The Rams’ offense gets all the limelight. This would be a wonderful opportunity for the Giants’ play-makers to upstage them if they can produce on the field. The key is not just piling up yardage, but finishing drives off by getting into the end zone.

The big concern is the offensive line. RG David Diehl looks to be an upgrade over Jason Whittle and RT Ian Allen is a more athletic player than Mike Rosenthal. However, both are very inexperienced and both have hardly played together. The Rams are sure to test these two with some complex blitzing schemes. To make matters worse, Allen faces the Rams’ best pass rusher – the very quick DE Leonard Little, who accrued 12 sacks last season. Allen is still gaining confidence so he can be tentative at times in pass protection. This tentativeness could hurt him as Little not only could blow past him on his outside shoulder, but he could set him up for inside move. The more the Giants have to help out Diehl, the less effective their offense will be.

It appears the Giants will spread things out this year offensively. Look for 3-WR sets (Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Jeremy Shockey) and 4-WR sets (Toomer, Hilliard, Shockey, and Tim Carter). I also wouldn’t be surprised to see 2-WR, 2-TE sets that involve Visanthe Shiancoe. The more receivers put out in pass patterns, the more pressure there will be on the offensive line and blitz pick-ups of the backs (Tiki Barber, Jim Finn) and the tight ends (Shockey and Shiancoe). Spreading things out will allow Tiki Barber and Delvin Joyce to pick their holes in the ground game and the defenders ought to be more spread out as well.

But EVERYTHING depends on giving QB Kerry Collins time to operate. If the line, backs, and tight ends can’t give him time, then all these fancy offensive weapons will be moot. LT Luke Petitgout faces a quality, athletic opponent in DE Grant Wistrom. 1st round defensive tackles, Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett, and Jimmy Kennedy will battle the interior trio of LG Rich Seubert, OC Chris Bober, and RG David Diehl. Pickett may be hampered by an ankle injury.

The St. Louis linebackers are all athletes who are a bit undersized. But all can run to the football. Robert Thomas is a former first rounder who is questionable with an abdomen injury. They like Pisa Tinoisamoa a lot, but he is a rookie. Tommy Polley rounds out the group. They have the athletic ability to be a factor in coverage against Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Jim Finn.

In the secondary, the Rams are hurting. The left corner, Jerametrius Butler, will see a lot of Ike Hilliard. This will be Butler’s first start in the NFL. Second-year right corner Travis Fisher will match-up against Amani Toomer. On paper, the Giants should be able to do some damage here if Collins is giving time and his passes are accurate. Fred Weary, who was cut by the 49ers last week, is the nickel corner. Hilliard could also be a factor against him if Ike is moved to the slot when Tim Carter comes into the game. The safety position is more settled with super SS Adam Archuleta and coverted corner Aeneas Williams at free safety. Archuleta is the Rams’ play-maker. They like to blitz him a lot and he is usually a factor in defending the run. It will be interesting to see if the Rams leave him on Shockey.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants now have the players and coaches to actually have special teams decide some games in their favor. Let’s hope PK Matt Bryant and rookie long-snapper Carson Dach are both in for solid seasons.

Rookie Arlen Harris is the Rams’ kick and punt returner.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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