Rock covers the New York Giants. Previously covered college sports and outdoors.
One of the reasons the Ravens canned Cam Cameron as their offensive coordinator two weeks ago was because of his inability -- or perhaps reluctance -- to use running back Ray Rice as prominently and effectively as many believe he should have. Though Rice is one of the league's most dynamic players with the ball in his hands and turned in perhaps the most impressive play of the season when he caught a short pass and converted it into a first down on fourth-and-29 against the Chargers, his lack of touches have become a heavy topic of discussion in Baltimore.
Facing the Giants ought to fix that.
Because if the Ravens and new play-caller Jim Caldwell have paid attention at all to what the Giants' defense has been doing this season, their game plan should be relatively simple: Give the ball to Rice. Again and again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The Giants know it's coming, too.
"OK," defensive tackle Chris Canty said with some indignation on Monday. "If that's the approach they're going to take, then OK. That's fine."
The Giants' run defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL, allowing 123.7 yards per game. Only four teams allow more than the 4.6 yards per carry that the Giants yield. In Sunday's loss to the Falcons, they allowed 129 rushing yards while missing, according to Canty, 18 tackles.
The Falcons had 67 offensive snaps. That's a missed tackle every 3.7 downs. In other words, the Giants were giving away first downs even though Tom Coughlin tried to make tackling a point of emphasis.
"We made a specific point about it because of Michael Turner's history and the quality of back that he is," Coughlin said. "You had to swarm the ball and get them down right away without allowing them to have a chance to get going."
That didn't happen. And the Ravens surely noticed.
"This is a copycat league," Canty said. "People see things you're going to have trouble with and they're going to continue to do those same things until you get them fixed. So we've got to fix what we did wrong and we've got to be able to improve our performance from that perspective."
Canty pointed out that the Falcons' backs -- Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers -- had more than a little something to do with the yardage allowed and the tackles missed. But every team has NFL-caliber running backs. Four of the Giants' six losses have come against teams whose primary back was able to run through, between and around the Giants for more than 100 yards (the Falcons used a three-player backfield rotation to the tune of 116). Only one of their wins had a 100-yard rusher against them.
Now comes Rice and a new offensive coordinator with an unspoken mandate to get him more involved. He has fewer carries than all but one of the 11 other 1,000-yard rushers in the league this season. If the Ravens are smart, though, he could catch up in that category by the end of Sunday's game.
And if the Giants are a playoff team, as they believe they are, they'll have to be able to stop him.
"You've got to understand that you've got to concentrate on tackling this time of year," Canty said. "This is when the physicality of the game starts to come out. The intensity picks up. It's just the nature of it. So we've got to be ready for that, and we've got to respond accordingly."