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Meal Ticket
January 29, 2001
Defense will be the main course on the menu, so SI asked NFL scouts what the offenses should cook up for two of the league's hungriest units
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January 29, 2001

Meal Ticket

Defense will be the main course on the menu, so SI asked NFL scouts what the offenses should cook up for two of the league's hungriest units

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How to Beat the Giants' Defense

Go Hurry-up
The Giants struggle with the two-minute drill. In fact, the only time the Eagles moved the ball against them in their playoff game was in two-minute situations. In those situations the Giants rely more on their base defense because it's harder to communicate blitzes from the sidelines and change fronts. Plus, their two-minute routine is so predictable you can almost script what they're going to do. They're going to run the same three calls at the start of the series. If you cross midfield, they're going to blitz once and then go back to the top of the script. It's pretty easy to get a rhythm going against them.

Account For Strahan And Barrow
The keys for them lately have been Michael Strahan (page 46) and Micheal Barrow. Strahan will play straight-up in the run game, but you need power to get him blocked. He'll dart inside, loop outside, and then he'll bull-rush the tackle. When he does all that, he'll get a lineman guessing, like the Vikings' Korey Stringer was, and by then the guy is really confused. I could see [right tackle] Harry Swayne having a tough time with Strahan. The Giants will also bring Barrow off the edge against a right tackle; that can also be tough for a lineman, because Barrow has good speed.

Outfox Fox
Wither it's handling the blitz or a coverage, [defensive coordinator] John Fox will keep calling defenses to exploit your weaknesses until you find a way to handle them. Defensively, the Giants aren't as fast or as talented as the Ravens, but they make up for it with their schemes. They'll also get mismatches inside because [tackle] Keith Hamilton is playing well and Baltimore's interior linemen aren't very good.

Work on Number 91
Their linebackers are really good, but Ryan Phillips is the one guy you might have an advantage against. It seems that every time I've seen them play, the coaches are yelling at him about one thing or another. He's the kind of guy who's solid with good players around him, but it seems as if whenever he makes a play it's because he happens to be in the right place, not because of anything special he did.

Go After the Secondary
Their safeties are good—they play like linebackers—but their cornerbacks play like safeties. Everyone in the secondary tackles well, but you can run by both their corners. Jason Sehorn is a great athlete, but Dave Thomas is one of those guys who opponents will always go after. He doesn't give up many big plays, though, because he has long arms that make it easy to jam receivers, and they roll coverage to his side a lot. I always thought nickelback Emmanuel McDaniel was a question mark. He's too small [5' 9"] to play slot receivers on passing downs, but he did make a hell of an interception against Cris Carter in the NFC Championship Game.

Use Wideout Jermaine Lewis
He could be the X-factor. He can run trick plays, and Baltimore sometimes does a lot of things to get the ball in his hands. Qadry Ismail doesn't have great hands, and he's inconsistent. Patrick Johnson isn't anything special. Lewis has the speed to cause problems for the Giants' secondary, but he's small [5' 7"]. Against big corners like Sehorn and Thomas, he may not get off the line of scrimmage.

How to Beat the Ravens' Defense

Confuse The Man in The Middle
You have to block Ray Lewis, which isn't easy, or he will make every tackle. The best way to go at him is to run misdirection, because if he can go sideline-to-sideline without worrying about getting fooled, he's going to have a big game. The other way to go at him is with a fullback to make sure he's accounted for. Otherwise, [tackle] Tony Siragusa (page 50) will hold linemen inside—I mean literally tackle people—so nobody can get to Lewis. Maybe if you double-team [tackle] Sam Adams and Siragusa and lead with a fullback, you can run a guy through the middle.

Throw Deep...
You have to beat their cornerbacks with speed. Chris McAlister, in particular, can't handle it, and the Giants have to set him up. He likes to cheat on quick routes like the slant, and I could see the Giants running a lot of slant-and-gos, especially to Amani Toomer, because the slant is their bread-and-butter route. McAlister watches the quarterback more than the receiver, so if New York wants to throw a slant-and-go, Kerry Collins will have to sell the play as much as the receiver. But I don't know if the Giants have a burner who can really get deep.

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