Rams prepare for Williams, Giants' run game

ST. LOUIS — The Rams have liked what they’ve seen from Giants rookie running back Andre Williams. With Rashad Jennings missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of an ankle injury, the Rams could see plenty of Williams on Sunday.

“I really like the rookie running back,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said on Wednesday. “I liked him coming out (of Boston College). He’s a powerful back. He can run you over. You have to be wary of him. They can get your edge if they want to, but they are going to make their hay in between the tackles. So he’s a good back for them.”

Williams, who was the Giants’ fourth-round pick (113th overall), opened plenty of eyes a year ago when he rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final season at Boston College. In his rookie season with the Giants, he has rushed 176 times for 568 yards, an average of just 3.2 yards per carry, with six rushing touchdowns.

The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder ranks second in the NFC in rushing yards among rookies, behind only Tre Mason of the St. Louis Rams. Mason has 661 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. “I think the rookie is very good, very powerful,” Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said of Williams. “He’s got a thick lower body and can break a lot of tackles.”

The Giants (5-9) rank 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards per game (99.9). The Rams, who rank 12th in the league in rushing yards allowed (107.5), will be aiming to limit their effectiveness in the ground game so they can try to make Eli Manning and Co. one-dimensional offensively.

“It all starts with stopping the run,” Laurinaitis said. “We have to try to make them one-dimensional, put the ball in Eli’s hands and we have to try to disrupt him. Because Eli will very quickly put five touchdowns up on you. He’s very talented. You can tell he’s getting more comfortable in this new offense.”

The Rams (6-8) have been stingy with their run defense in the second half of the season. After giving up a robust 144.3 yards rushing per game over their first seven contests, with six opponents gaining 123 yards or more, the Rams have allowed 70.7 yards rushing per game over their last seven. That 70.7 yards rushing per game mark is the fourth-lowest in the NFL over that span. It includes holding the Washington Redskins to 27 yards rushing and the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos to 28 yards apiece on the ground.

The Rams are 4-2 this season when they hold an opponent under 100 yards rushing and are 4-1 when they limit their opposition to 80 yards rushing or fewer. The Giants are 4-0 when they run for 124 yards or more this season and are 1-9 when they rush for fewer than 124 yards. The one victory in those 10 games came last week, when New York rushed for 49 yards on 22 carries in a 24-13 win against the Redskins.

Laurinaitis detailed the challenge the Rams are facing on Sunday in defending Williams and the Giants’ run game.

“I think they are kind of old school,” Laurinaitis said. “They are going to get in 21 near I and run power and they don’t care if you know it. They are just going to say ‘Here it comes’ over and over.

“If they get a big explosive play, that’s great. But a lot of times you’ll watch them on film and they do the same stuff over and over and you’ll look up and it will be second and five, second and four, you’re thinking it doesn’t really look all that impressive but they are really getting yards and next thing you know you look up and they are eating up some yards and first downs. We have to be very aware.” You

can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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