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Numbers game: Steven Jackson is Rams key to stopping Giants pass rush

The Rams have a tough match up once again this week, maybe as tough as the Eagles last week. After watching Marc Bulger serve as the league's most well-compensated tackle dummy for the last two years, the Giants' mighty pass rush presents a daunting matchup for the Rams. Look at the numbers below for the Giants run defense. One week does not a sample size make, but the yards per carry average looks resembles their 3.8 YPC total from last season.

So, without stepping on the toes of 3k's upcoming preview, I wanted to start featuring a look at a key number or two ahead of the game covering an area of particular importance, or at least what should be, in the Rams' game plan. This week, it's the Giants run defense. Why the run defense, you ask? Well, with that pass rush, the Rams will have to make hey on the ground in order to keep Justin Tuck out of Bulger's face all day. Respect the run, and open up more passing opportunities.

Giants run defense

Yards allowed Attempts Yards per DVOA
84 24 3.5 -31.9%

The Skins ran a lot of draw plays on long downs against the Giants, and they didn't work. On their very first drive of the game on the second play, after watching their QB get sacked for a loss of 8 yards, the Redskins sent Portis up the middle for 3. The very next play, after a false start penalty made it 3rd and 20, the Skins went up the middle again to no avail. Surprisingly enough, two consecutive draw plays didn't work, and they didn't stop the Giants pass rush either.

Time and time agian, the Redskins found running up the middle to be a fruitless task. But there's hope for running against the Giants. Last season (where I'm deferring on stats given the sample size) the Giants fared poorly on runs through the left tackle and right end (22nd in the league per Football Outsiders). Teams used runs through the LT and around the right end to catch Blue Men pass rushers and get yards on the ground. That's where the Giants had their success on the run, going over through the tackles and around the ends. That squares with last week when Portis' best run of the game was a 23 yard carry through the left tackle in the 3rd quarter.

Keys for the Rams on the ground, as I see it.

Clearly the o-line has it's work cut out for them this week, but this week the running game will also require flawless blocking from the tight ends, fullbacks, and even receivers to utilize the outside lane.

More importantly, switch it up. Try to keep the pass rushers, and everyone else for that matter, guessing as much as possible, without deferring to the draw play. I would suggest using counter plays, reverses, some play action, and throwing in a flea flicker to shake things up. The more the Rams can get into short yardage situations on second and third downs, the more the pass rush has to back off. If the running game's a threat it opens up the passing game in situations where the Giants have to account for Steven Jackson.

Getting the Giants to respect the ground game will be essential to give Bulger the chance to do anything through the air.