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News » Giants D works best with Tuck on the prowl

Giants D works best with Tuck on the prowl

Giants D works best with Tuck on the prowl
In the not-so-distant past I sat on set of a pro football show with Jason Sehorn, the former Giants defensive back who made quite a name for himself off the field as well as on.


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Sehorn explained: "Woodson could play the safety position, stop the run well as an eight guy in the box, etc. ... but you could also leave him in one-on-one coverage.

We'd put a third receiver out there — a slot guy — and (Woodson) would just walk up from his safety position and man him. Dallas didn't have to sub in an extra DB or send a different package in if they didn't want to."

If the Giants ran from that formation, it was advantage Dallas, as Woody would already be up close to the line, along with three linebackers.

Recalling this conversation made me think of New York's Justin Tuck, who's allowed defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo tremendous flexibility with his defense.

On Sunday night, Tuck and the pass rush carry the burden of slowing down a desperate opponent and Tony Romo, a topic we'll broach in this week's Film Study.

Film study

Tuck's ability to play inside or outside has provided Spagnuolo the ability to create matchup problems, especially during last season's Super Bowl run. In the rare instance that a lineman can play both, like Reggie White in his heyday, coordinators can pick and choose who to rest on the line.

Fresh legs = pass rush.

Before Spagnuolo's guys can decimate Tony Romo's pocket, they have to address how they got their butt kicked by Philly, right? The Eagles played keep-away, occupying the clock for 35 minutes and converting a whopping 12-for-18 on third downs.

But Dallas will not necessarily be able to copy the Eagles gameplan, which neutralized Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Fred Robbins, and the rest of the D-line. Andy Reid scared football fans nationwide by actually sticking with the run versus putting the whole game on Donovan McNabb's back. By utilizing the ground game — specifically Brian Westbrook — Reid took the Giants pressure defense, and its 36 sacks, out of the game.

Ah, but Dallas has no Westbrook ... and perhaps no Marion Barber (again) this week. While Philly won the game isolating Westbrook on Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce on a key touchdown pass, good luck to Cowboys OC Jason Garrett in making a Marshall Faulk out of reserve Tashard Choice.

Choice ran hard against the Steelers, yet he's obviously not the Faulkian force Westbrook is. Dallas will be leaning heavily on its vertical passing game. Therefore, this division showdown may hinge on the offensive line's ability to protect versus Spagnuolo's front four and blitz packages.

That's where Tuck comes in.

The high-motored defensive end must beat right tackle Marc Colombo when he gets single blocking. If he doesn't, New York needs Kiwanuka to outplay left tackle Flozell Adams. Kiwanuka accomplished that feat in Week 9, but that was with lead-footed Brad Johnson in the pocket. If neither wins his battle, Spagnuolo ain't scared to blitz — something he did very effectively a couple weeks ago versus Team Warner.

None of this is to say the Giants cover men aren't up to the task. Corners Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are effective, smart players. They're much like actors Tom Wopat and John Schneider in that neither wow you, but you still watched "Dukes of Hazzard" anyway.

The danger in leaning on the secondary, and just mixing coverages and personnel, is that Romo can go off. While Pittsburgh contained him, the Steelers' success came down mostly to three factors:

  • The weather in Pittsburgh was extremely cold and windy
  • Romo was splint-less for the first time, something analyst Troy Aikman thought seriously affected his play
  • Jason Witten and he weren't on the same page, a rarity in their short careers.

    Tom Coughlin and Spagnuolo can't rely on any of those factors this week. Playing in the comfy confines of on-it-last-legs Texas Stadium, Romo will be accustomed to throwing splint-less. The G-Men need Tuck to dominate.

    When they allowed Romo all day to throw in two regular season games last year, he carved them for eight touchdowns, two wins and a 129.2 rating. When the Giants defense finally put Romo in hurry mode last January, they walked out of Texas Stadium with a W.

    Oh, did I mention Tuck?

    What I learned

    The good news for the Giants is the same good news every week. They have both the personnel and coaching to slow down the Dallas offense. With the defensive line rotation, as well as the blitz packages that Spagnuolo judiciously employs, the G-Men can certainly make Romo's life miserable.

    If Barber can go, his presence may counteract what Spagnuolo chooses to do, as the Barbarian is likely to kill a blitzing linebacker this week after hearing 879 ESPN stories that Jerry Jones questioned his toughness.

    It will be interesting to see if Romo forces the ball to Terrell Owens for the sake of peace, which spells disaster — but I doubt that will happen.

    On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning may have more trouble than he's used to with the Dallas defense, a unit that's been playing solidly for a month. With Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs out, this game should come down to the wire.

    Pick: Cowboys (a nod towards desperation)

    Odds and ends

  • More truths from the Film Room (DVD player): Don't mean to pile on, but I'm not seeing much from JaMarcus Russell.
  • Non-football thought of the week: Watched Terminator recently. How people can say Terminator 2: Judgment Day was better than the original is beyond me ...
  • Flozell Adams Watch: You think you have three tough weeks of holiday shopping? Big Flo' faces Kiwanuka, Terrell Suggs and Trent Cole in the next three weeks. This after facing James Harrison last week.

  • Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: December 14, 2008

    Darren Howard Name: Darren Howard
    Position: DE
    Age: 31
    Experience: 9 years
    College: Kansas State
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