Black and Gold Xs and Os: New Orleans Saints Defensive Gameplan vs. Rams

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst INovember 12, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 1:  Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams runs with the ball during the game against the Detroit Lions on November 1, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It's seemingly a fair statement to make that the New Orleans Saints should be 9-0 after this weekend's game. I say this mainly because the Saints are still playing good enough football to beat anyone. Even if they weren't though, this would probably be the game that could potentially get them out of a funk.

Honestly, St. Louis is just plain not very good offensively. They rely on one guy. That guy's name, of course, is Steven Jackson.

He accounts for more than 42 percent of all St. Louis's total offensive yardage. That, of course is a far cry from the balanced attack the Saints offense employs. Moreso is second in catches on the team. Not only does he carry the ball over 20 times per game, but also catches three balls per game.

In fact, if you combine all other Rams rushers this season, you get 39 carries. That means Jackson has carried the football 126 more times than the rest of the team. If you include all receptions, Jackson has more touches than the entire team has receptions.

I know that there are a lot of statistics being thrown around here. Some of it may not make sense. My point—in case it is not clear—is that St. Louis is ALL about Jackson, Jackson, and some more Jackson.

When you turn on the film, St. Louis does look like a professional offense, yet they are downright offensive in their nature. They are no longer "The Greatest Show on Turf." A more appropriate name may be "The Most Lopsided Show Ever."

They are so overmatched it's not even funny. I love rookie offensive tackle, Jason Smith. And some of their other offensive line are very skilled, but they do not play well as a unit yet. Of course, continuity is the biggest key to success on the line, so it is probably too early to give up on them.

It is not too early though, to give up on the Rams' skill players. Donnie Avery would be a great third/slot receiver. But they are asking him to be their number one guy. I'm sorry, but he is clearly not that.

The Rams better pray they have one of the top five picks in next year's draft so they can draft Dez Bryant. Otherwise, their offense will continue to stink for years to come without a playmaking wide receiver.

I digress, back to the Xs and Os talk.

Personnel-wise, the Rams use a lot of base personnel with former Saint Mike Karney at fullback and Randy McMichael at tight end. They'll go I-Formation from this, but also go with a spread gun formation and put Karney in the backfield and line Jackson out in the slot.

Again, this proves how much the Rams rely on Jackson. Most teams have a designated flex player, like the Saints do with Bush. Almost never is he the same guy who gets the majority of the carries.

Other personnel groupings include two tight ends, where they bring in Billy Bajema, a career backup, as the second tight end. They'll go with an Ace look, which is tight ends on the line on both sides of the formation. Other times, they'll go with a wing formation, where both tight ends are lined up on the same side. Either way, they want to run the football.

Finally, they use a lot of bunch looks, which they use mostly to run the football, but also in the passing game to run some switch routes, which they are hoping will confuse the defense if they're playing man-to-man coverage.

Switch routes also can work versus zone coverage because they are by nature designed to flood open spots of the field.

Most of the Rams passing game is a horizontal version of the West Coast Offense. This basically means they run short-to-intermediate routes, hoping to get quick players in space. They accompany these short routes with one deep route, which they hope will take the top off the coverage and eventually give those shorter routes more room.

Because the nature of this game, I would expect the Rams to play conservatively on offense and ride Steven Jackson once again. They may throw some play action in, which I didn't see too much of on film. But with a defense struggling to stop the run, a beast like Jackson, and no passing game, it seems like the only sensible solution.

How Will Gregg Williams Stop Jackson?

If I don't sound like a broken record, then something is horribly wrong. Put an eighth guy in the box. Heck, put a ninth guy in the box. Screw it, don't even defend their receivers...okay just kidding, but I think you get the point.

Seriously, adding a ninth guy, at least on some downs, may not be a horrible idea. Doing so really will force them to either check off and go to a pass play, which is an advantage for the Saints. Or they will have to run against nine-in-the-box. Either way, the Saints should stop them.

Since Jackson is just as likely to catch a pass as any other Rams player, I would put one of the two safeties on him at all times. Allow the linebackers to play McMichael or Karney out of the backfield.

I would also send a variety of blitzes on third down to confuse the offensive line and get pressure on Marc Bulger. Behind it, play exclusively man-to-man coverage, which will make interceptions difficult, but gives the defense a better chance to stop the Rams.

I wish I could give you more, but truthfully, that's really all there is need for. It should be utter domination on both sides of the ball. If it is not, the Saints aren't as good as we all thought.  


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