The New York Giants face an unfamiliar opponent Sunday in the St. Louis Rams. To find out a little more about the Rams, we turned to Joe McAfee of SB Nation's Turf Show Times for this week's 'Five Questions' segment.
Ed: What do the Rams do at quarterback long-term? Is it time to move on from Sam Bradford? The draft doesn't look like an answer. What is the prevailing opinion?
Joe: Yeah, unfortunately for the Rams I don't know if there is an answer. Bradford's too unreliable to do what they did going into this season - strength other areas of the team and just backfill QB assuming Sam will be healthy. It was a risky proposition, and it didn't work. One would think HC Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead learned from it. If that's the case, then it's either hoping a mid-round QB turns into something special or that free agency might provide some stability (a la Jay Cutler perhaps). They could keep Sam around for 2015, but it's going to require a re-negotiated contract. I just cant see how it makes sense to toss another $13m at him for his services in 2015 even if the brass wants him back.
Ed: Aaron Donald is a guy many wanted the Giants to draft. Tell us about Donald. How good is he? How good can he be?
Joe: He's phenomenal. He's just so quick and his hand work is so good, he's effective in both rush and pass defense. He can be overpowered, but it's hard to get him in position to do so. It's because he's quick enough off the snap to win the position battle immediately. At that point, you can either hold him or just kind of drive him through the backfield, but he's already there. That disrupts the running game, and if it's a pass ... he's just really, really good.
Ed: Tell us about a few players we might not know much about, but who we should pay attention to on Sunday.
Joe: E.J. Gaines has been the best value pick for the Rams in the 2014 draft. As a sixth-rounder out of Missouri, nobody was expecting immediate dividends from him with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson already manning the outside and second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner coming out of Florida St. And yet Gaines has jumped Joyner and, honestly, outplayed Jenkins in his first season. Really impressive rookie campaign. I should also point to the safeties, sophomore T.J. McDonald and third-year free safety Rodney McLeod. They've improved significantly this season.
On the offense, there's not a ton to love. The interior of the line needs work, especially C Scott Wells and RG Davin Joseph really shouldn't be around for 2015. The tight ends are huge threats. Maybe Tavon Austin? Yeah, you shouldn't have to pay a ton of attention to the offense...
Ed: You can take one player off the Giants roster and put him in your lineup. Who would it be? Why?
Joe: Well, the prime candidates would be QB and O-line, but if I'm being honest, I'm non-plussed with what you guys have there. I guess I'd have to pluck Odell. I don't really trust the Rams to make the most of him, but adding him to what the Rams already have would be hard for the coaching staff to not improve the results.
Ed: You are game-planning against the Rams. How do you attack them, both offensively and defensively?
Joe: On offense, it's tough. You have to negate the pass rush by taking out your 7-step drops and adding extra blockers. Of course, that takes a lot out of your offensive capabilities, but you risk too much if you play around with the Rams' front four and the blitzes DC Gregg Williams likes to dial up. The problem is that the secondary's a plus and linebackers James Laurinaits and Alec Ogeltree blend technique and discipline (Laurinaitis) with athleticism and splash plays (Ogletree). Put it like this, it's hard to ask too much of your offense on Sunday.
Defensively though, you can keep the Rams really bottled up. The key is to take away the running game. The Rams don't have a passing attack that's going to be successful on 3rd & 8 very often. In fact, with Shaun Hill at QB, I might say there's a greater chance of a sack/interception in those situations than a first down. As much as the Rams' system is designed to check down for the four-yard option, if you put them in situations where four yards isn't enough, eventually they'll start to press the issue. As a Rams fan, I don't want Shaun Hill pressing the issue.
Thanks to Joe for dropping some Rams knowledge on us. Check out Turf Show Times for more about the Rams.