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Giants at Rams: When the Giants have the ball

Dealing with Aaron Donald is no small order

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The arid start to the Joe Judge era of New York Giants’ football has fans troubled - rightfully so. Losing to a triage San Francisco 49ers squad in the fashion that the Giants did leaves most fans wondering if this is the “same old Giants.” Sadly, things will not get easier for New York this weekend as they have to travel to Los Angeles to battle the 2-1 Rams.

The Rams almost pulled off a comeback against the Bills this past week, but a controversial defensive pass interference on fourth-and-8 gave the Bills another opportunity to win the contest. Now that angry Rams’ defense is home and gets to play a struggling Giants’ offense that ran only 49 offensive plays, and lost the time of possession battle to the 49ers 39:44-20:16.

The Rams defense has been middle of the pack in terms of yardage allowed and points allowed through three weeks. They allowed 35 points against the Bills, but only 19 against the Eagles and 17 against the Cowboys. While the Eagles offensive misfortunes are difficult to quantify, the Cowboys being held to only 17 points at SoFi Stadium isn’t great for this Jason Garrett-led offense.

The Rams have allowed the 18th most yards per game (372) in this short season so far. They also finish 18 in rushing yards allowed per game (119). The Rams parted ways with the beloved son of Bum himself, Wade Phillips, and now have Brandon Staley as their defensive coordinator.

Staley is a 37-year-old who coached under Vic Fangio at Chicago, and then was the outside linebackers coach for Fangio in Denver last season. Sean McVay took a bit of a risk hiring a young coordinator with no experience with this specific job. Much like Patrick Graham, Staley uses a lot of big nickel and big dime type of defenses, with a nice rotation along the defensive line, while also using multiple safeties.

Rookie sixth-round selection out of Ohio State Jordan Fuller has filled in nicely alongside John Johnson III at safety, while Taylor Rapp is the third safety of the bunch. Fuller suffered a shoulder injury against the Bills and is questionable. The Rams have run 3-3-5 and 2-3-6 fronts, while sometimes being in 4-2-5 with the EDGEs on the line of scrimmage and Micah Kiser and Kenny Young manning the middle.

There are two major names to pay attention to with this defense:

1). DT Aaron Donald

2). CB Jalen Ramsey

Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL. He has 20 pressures alone on the season; the most a Giants’ player has is 6 and that’s by Markus Golden and Leonard Williams. The Rams’ defense as a whole has 58 pressures compared to the Giants’ 39.

The Giants’ offensive line has struggled and now it gets to see Donald. Above, Donald uses a push-pull/outside swim and it looks effortless as he blows past the right guard. The Rams are playing man coverage here on a third-and-22; they double the backside receiver and cloud Stefon Diggs. Sadly, the Giants have a tendency to get themselves into third-and-long situations. Attempting to take Donald out of the play or double team him has to be a priority.

On this first-and-10 with the Rams in a 2-3-6 defense, the Bills are able to expose the zone coverage that the Rams like to run. First, though, watch how the Bills’ offensive line shifts the protection towards Donald who’s attempting to penetrate for the stunt, but it doesn’t work. Brian Daboll and the Bills have a good three-man route concept to the field against this base Cover 3 look. John Brown (15) runs a clear out and angles it towards the numbers from plus splits of about three. Then Cole Beasley (11) expands to the flat on a delayed vertical stem; this gives the running back an opportunity to release into the flat and hold the underneath defender in place, and it also gives Brown’s route a chance to break inside deep to give Beasley more space to the sideline. This is nice chunk yardage on first down, but the concepts need to be timed well, and the routes need to be precise.

Staley does run a lot of man coverage in third-and-short, and he’ll really drop a safety down to rob inside breaking routes. We see the light box, a 2-3-6, but watch how Jordan Fuller #32 drops down onto the field side hash to eliminate the inside breaking route. Daniel Jones needs to be aware of this and not telegraph this type of throw into a trap type of coverage.

Here is a similar look on a third-and-4. The safety drops to the middle in anticipation to undercut Dallas Goedert (88) but the tight end breaks outside. Jones has to be weary of that cover 1 robber, especially since Garrett uses so much quick game to compensate for a shaky offensive line. Also peak how this is a 3-2-6 defense with Donald wide of left tackle Jason Peters (71) which commands the left guard to slide and gives the right side of the offensive line the pleasure of handling the 3v3 stunt with the wide rusher looping into the opposite A-Gap.

The player in coverage is Troy Hill (22). He’s a 2015 undrafted free agent. Playing across from Jalen Ramsey isn’t exactly easy, and Hill may be the liability that Garrett needs to circle on the outside. Hill has been targeted 22 times this season, surrendering 20 catches for 217 yards. However, Hill isn’t the biggest liability on this defense in terms of pass coverage. The player to target is starting MIKE Micah Kiser. Kiser is a solid in between the tackles run stuffer, but coverage isn’t his forte and he’s played every defensive snap for the Rams. He seems to be a bit slow to react, and it was exploited by the Eagles and the Bills.

In his defense, on the second Bills’ play, there seems to be a miscommunication. However, after watching the film...I’m not surprised that he has been targeted 25 times in the middle of the field while being high-lowed and flooded, because his athletic ability and spatial awareness isn’t good enough to consistently stop that type of attack. I expect Garrett to attack the middle of the field, I just hope it’s a bit different than what seems to be the predictable quick 6-yard outside button hook from Evan Engram.

Another way the Bills had success against the Rams was move the pocket type of rollouts and play-action passes with pre-snap motion built into the play.

Here we see the pre-snap motion helps prompt the Rams to crash hard to the boundary, and this allows Josh Allen to operate in space towards the field with a tight receiver releasing upfield on a deep 7. Since Allen rolls out, the field corner has to respect the legs of the athletic quarterback, which gives the receiver so much outside leverage on the deep half safety. It turns out to be an easy pitch and catch that could have gone for a touchdown.

More pre-snap motion, more play action stretch to get the defense flowing away from the designed route, which was the motioning Tyler Kroft (81) to the boundary. Diggs is tight to the line and creates traffic while the momentum of the defense crashes hard to the play action side of the field. Kroft is the H-Back, off the line of scrimmage, and just works underneath the traffic Diggs causes for an easy touchdown. These are simple concepts that I hope the Giants can implement against this talented Rams team.

Final thoughts

This will not be a picnic for this embarrassed Giants squad. Jason Garrett needs to be adaptive, continue to use Daniel Jones’ athletic ability with zone reads and RPOs, something we didn’t see much of at all in Weeks 1 and 2. But most importantly, the Giants offense needs to mitigate the dumb mistakes that plague them, and they need to sustain drives to keep Jared Goff off the field.

Hopefully, Garrett studies how the Bills had success with using Allen’s athletic ability, while utilizing pre-snap motion, move the pocket plays, and other simple concepts to target players like Hill and Kiser. However, it’s hard to deny that the Rams’ defense is just much better than the Giants’ personnel. It could be yet another long Sunday for New York.