Former Philadelphian and current St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was on Philly sports talk radio yesterday. Spags covered everything from the Eagles' pricey new free agents to his relationship with Andy Reid. He also touched on what, or who, should be a key part of the Rams game plan Sunday: Steven Jackson.
Asked if his plans for the Rams include a heavy does of Jackson, Spagnuolo replied:
Well we would do that anyway because he is a pretty good player, but we have a certain way that we'll approach things. Philadelphia does the same. Every team in this league does. I know one thing and especially the first game of the season a lot of the opening day games go back to how you adjust in the games. Lets face it none of us really show our true colors in the preseason games and there's some things you have to do because you have to get ready. I'm sure there is a lot of things we haven't seen that Philadelphia has been working on. We just have to find a way during the game to adjust to it and find a way to stop it or find a way to attack it.
ln-game adjustments were a problem for the Rams last year, but much of that had to with strict limitations on the available talent. Let's stay with the Steven Jackson talk.
A power running game will be essential to beating the Eagles. Mike Tanier from Football Outsiders penned this piece on how to beat the Eagles, and it included a heavy emphasis on power running schemes. The point being to take advantage of an inexperienced group of linebackers, a group that struggled in the preseason.
The Rams just so happen to have a power running game, thanks in part to the additional Harvey Dahl. Years of playing along side sub-par talent took a toll on Jackson. He just doesn't seem to have the speed he once did. However, as I wrote about before, Jackson can get by now with his power and savvy, which is exactly how McDaniels envisions him in this offense.
Yes, you can probably expect to see some stacked boxes because of that. Ideally, that will allow the Rams to further exploit those linebackers by using their tight end(s), particularly Lance Kendricks. Another point Tanier made in his piece about beating the Eagles, referring to how the Patriots could do it:
The Patriots' offense is designed to exploit mismatches at linebacker, with tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski working the middle of the field and running backs like Danny Woodhead catching screens and running draws.
Hmm, if you can remember all the way back to the preseason, the Rams offense used a boat load of those very kinds of plays. Spags mentioned that the Rams, or any team, leaves most of their cards in their hand for the preseason, but the preponderance of screens, draws, play actions and good old power running was more than enough to signal that those things will be the foundation of the Rams offense. And why wouldn't they be? That fits McDaniels' coy description of an offense built to "stress" defenses.
Don't get me wrong. It won't be easy. The Eagles secondary should be well prepared to help out the linebackers, for instance. But this is how a team beats the Eagles, and the Rams just so happen to have the pieces in place to matchup with those qualifications.