Giants' Ground Delivery Presents Problem
Stopping the Giants' running game is going to be one of the obvious plots to Sunday's game. I fully expect Greg Blache to dedicate numbers in the box, especially with so many linemen and linebackers beat up, and I also get the sense that LaRon Landry will be around the line much more often. He's a strong run fit and is big enough to handle the trio of Giants backs. Shawn Springs probably will end up playing more free safety.
Blache has kicked himself at times this season for being too slow to adjust and get eight men in the box - the most recent Dallas game, with power runner Marion Barber, comes to mind - and I don't see him giving New York many chances to outnumber his guys in the run game. On what may be a rainy day, he'll make Eli Manning beat him, I figure, particularly with Plaxico Burress gimpy.
The Redskins know they must make a lot of adjustments from last week, when Seattle gashed them on the perimeter, running right at the ends. If Jason Taylor ends up playing more right end with Andre Carter injured, I would imagine he would be the primary target in the run game, as he was when these teams played in the season opener.
Last week too often linemen were caught slightly out of position, lost their gap assignment and were caught lunging and leaping.
"We just need to fit better, especially for myself," said end Demetric Evans, coming off his worst game of the season. "We need to play with a good pad level, and if we're supposed to be in 'A' gap, then be in the 'A' gap. That's the key to an assignment defense, and when we don't do our assignment we get losses."
New York's offensive line is much more dominant - it's probably the best in the NFL for its combo of brawn and athleticism - and will present problems. Brandon Jacobs will be back for this game, the Redskins are banking on it, and at 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, he is a beast of a runner.
"Their running back is so big, and with the offensive line passing off blocks so well and coming downhill, it makes it even harder," defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said. "The offensive line can block for two yards, and Barber is so big he gets some extra yards, too."
Jacobs leads all NFL starters with an average of 5.4 carries per game, and he has a carry of at least 20 yards in seven of his 10 games this season. He gets all the attention for his brutish ways, but the guy can also bust it to the secondary big time if you lose containments. The Ravens failed to occupy the backside on Jacobs's first carry two weeks ago - Jacobs nicked up his knee on that play - and he took it for 36 yards, pulling away from most of the defense in the process.
"He's got all of the tools," Blache said. "He's got the size, he's got the weight, he's got good vision, and he does have breakaway speed. If you let him get in the secondary he can take it the distance. I think that's something that he's underestimated on.
"People just talk about the size and brutality, which is unique. He's as big as most of our guys ... He's as big or bigger than our ends and our linebackers, and he's a huge man and he creates a lot of problems for you in a lot of aspects."
The Redskins will try some of the tactics that made them successful against another powerful back, Barber, in the past. They will try to knock Jacobs around early, and chip at his legs. You can't attack him high; you have to hunt his legs. Easier said than done, of course.
And, the Giants also have two other backs averaging five yards or better per carry as well, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.
"We want to take a similar approach as with Barber," tackle Lorenzo Alexander said, "but they can switch it up. They've got different types of runners. Jacobs is going to run downhill, but they got [Ward], and he's going to bounce it outside. They can switch it up. They change it up and set you up in different ways, whereas Dallas, they want to hit you in the mouth all the time. The Giants hit you in the mouth, and then they also bounce and cut on the outside, and it's very hard to play. They are very versatile and very hard to play."
The Giants have an outside shot of making history. Jacobs (879 yards) and Ward (600) yards could become the first teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season since the 1985 Cleveland Browns (Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack). Ward would have to reel off 400 yards in the final five games to get there, but should the Giants clinch the NFC East early, they may rest Jacobs's knee down the stretch.
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