The Tommy DeVito mania appears to be over for the New York Giants. It may just give them the best chance to win their last two games. With Tyrod Taylor leading the charge, the Giants will look to play spoiler once more against the upstart Los Angeles Rams.
The Giants’ game plan with Taylor is somewhat different than it was with DeVito. Taylor’s performance against the Eagles was mixed, but he showed the strengths that helped him keep the Giants in position to win when he started earlier in the season.
The problem is that the Rams’ offense has been on a tear recently. They’ve scored 32.4 points per game over their past five games. Besides the hefty task facing the Giants’ defense, the offense will face immense pressure to keep up with the Rams’ suddenly high-flying unit.
How can the Giants find their legs offensively and make a game out of this?
Attack their coverage
Pro Football Focus ranks the Rams’ coverage unit as the second-to-worst in the NFL with a 50.9 overall grade. Even though their pass defense DVOA ranks 21st, the Rams’ individual cover defenders leave even more to be desired. If the Giants are going to score points, they’ll need to take advantage of that.
Among 78 qualified cornerbacks (min. 350 coverage snaps), the Rams’ top three corners rank 54th, 55th, and 67th in coverage grade. Derion Kendrick and Ahkello Weatherspoon have both allowed four touchdowns.
Even though Weatherspoon ranks fifth with 10 pass breakups, his forced incompletion rate ranks 24th at 15%, showing that he struggles on passes that he doesn’t break up. He also has a 21.2% missed tackle rate in the passing game, the second-worst among corners, showing that he can be had for YAC in addition to allowing receptions. Kendrick, meanwhile, has been called for 11 penalties, tied for the third-most among cornerbacks.
The Rams’ safeties hardly fare better. Jordan Fuller’s 60.5 PFF overage grade ranks 44th out of 65 qualified safeties (min. 320 coverage snaps), while Russ Yeast’s 53.9 ranks 56th. Yeast’s 15.5 yards per reception allowed is the 10th-most among safeties, and Fuller’s 13.8 is the 17th-most. Yeast’s mark is particularly stark when considering that he has just an 8.7 average depth of target, which is in keeping with his second-worst 26.8% missed tackle rate in the passing game.
Defensively, the Rams rank 25th in allowing 53 receptions of 20+ yards, including 27 that traveled at least 20 air yards, which ranks 28th. This tracks with the poor coverage of their cornerbacks and safeties.
While the Rams’ linebackers haven’t fared as poorly, ranking 34th and 45th in PFF coverage grade among 70 qualified linebackers, Christian Rozeboom appears to be targeted very frequently. He allows a catch once every 7.5 coverage snaps, the sixth-worst mark among linebackers. That is in large part due to his 84.1% catch rate allowed, even though his 7.4 yards per reception allowed the eighth-lowest mark among linebackers. In the short area of the field, Rozeboom won’t get there quickly enough to prevent a catch.
From a DVOA standpoint, the deep middle of the field is where the Giants should be targeting, as the Rams have allowed a 78% DVOA in that spot.
Get the tight ends involved
The Rams rank 24th in defensive DVOA against tight ends. Not only is Darren Waller effectively the Giants’ No. 1 receiver, but Daniel Bellinger started to make some noise against the Eagles, too, catching four balls for 43 yards. This should also be a specific target for the Giants.
In three games where Taylor has attempted at least 15 passes, he has a combined 10 big-time throws on 81 pass attempts, a whopping 12.3% rate. For the season, his 8.9% big-time throw rate ranks first out of 42 quarterbacks with at least 125 dropbacks. That number is especially impressive when considering Taylor’s 1.4% turnover-worthy play rate, the lowest among those passers. He’s keeping the ball out of harm’s way while making things happen with his arm.
Taylor certainly missed some opportunities against the Eagles. Still, he gives the Giants’ offense more consistent thump than either of the other quarterbacks. The Giants should give Taylor the opportunity to take more deep shots in this game.
Darius Slayton had a 69-yard touchdown catch from Taylor last week and also had a four-catch, 69-yard effort against the Bills earlier in the season with Taylor at the helm. Jalin Hyatt also had two deep receptions from Taylor in the Giants’ first win over Washington. Those should be connections Taylor seeks to target in this game.
Contain Aaron Donald
This is easier said than done, but the Giants need to find a way not to let Donald wreck the game. The 32-year-old has put forth a vintage pass-rushing performance this season, leading all interior defensive linemen with 78 pressures and a 22.5% pass-rush win rate and ranking second to Dexter Lawrence with a 91.3 PFF pass-rush grade.
The Giants found a way to keep Jalen Carter off the board last week, albeit on only 14 pass-rush snaps. Fletcher Cox made some noise but was ultimately limited to two pressures on 28 pass-rush snaps. Though all three of Justin Pugh (49.7), John Michael Schmitz (42.5), and Ben Bredeson (14.3) posted subpar PFF pass-blocking grades, they nevertheless managed to contain the interior defensive line.
Donald is a whole different animal, though. Teams across the league have routinely double- and triple-teamed him to little avail. It’s hard to give any answers against one of the best defensive players of all time.
On the plus side, the Rams don’t blitz much (24.1%, ranked 23rd). This means the Giants will have more resources to devote to blocking Donald. It could very well not matter, though.
Can Saquon get involved?
With all the Rams’ struggles in the passing game, there’s room for Saquon Barkley to get involved, too. While Los Angeles ranks 13th in allowing 105.7 rush yards per game and have allowed just 84.3 over their last three, they rank 17th in rush DVOA, 20th in defensive adjusted line yards (ALY, a stat measuring defensive line push), 18th in success rate against short-yardage runs, 21st in defensive EPA per rush, and 30th in stuff rate.
Finding running lanes has been a struggle at times for Barkley, as he averages just 4.0 yards per carry for the season. That may not be easier against a defense that has allowed the 10th-fewest rushes of 10+ yards and ranks 13th in defensive rush success rate.
Teams that have run well against the Rams on the ground have done so out of 11 personnel. Los Angeles ranks 25th in EPA per rush, 23rd in yards per carry, and 17th in defensive rush success rate against runs in single-back, single-tight-end sets. Though the Giants run poorly out of those sets, that is merely representative of the overall state of their run game. If they’re going to run the ball with Barkley, it will likely need to be with more spread out sets rather than tight ones.