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SUNDAY NIGHT SPOTLIGHT Tuck a cause for concern

September 20, 2009|Sam Farmer

Never mind the low-hanging video board, the Dallas Cowboys have bigger concerns tonight: Low-flying missiles.

Namely, the ultra-quick defensive front of the New York Giants.

Among the NFL's most difficult players to block is New York's Justin Tuck, who lines up at strong-side end but slides inside to tackle in pass-rush situations.

After defensive end Osi Umenyiora went down with a knee injury last season, Tuck stepped into the void and had his best year, collecting 12 sacks. He's arguably the Giants' best defensive player.

The emergence of Tuck really started a year earlier when, because of Michael Strahan's contract holdout, he became an integral part of the defensive-line rotation. Tuck finished the 2007 season with 10 sacks and gave a tremendous performance in the Super Bowl shocker over New England, contributing five tackles, two sacks and three hurries of Tom Brady.

"He's a Pro Bowl defensive end, and when he moves down inside to tackle he is still" a pretty good player, defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka told the Associated Press of Tuck. "That's real hard. I've had experience being inside, and that's a real tough spot to rush from."

Against Washington last Sunday, Tuck made two huge plays in rapid-fire succession in the third quarter. When the comeback-minded Redskins were threatening to mount a drive, Tuck broke through the line on first down and stuffed Clinton Portis for a six-yard loss. Two plays later, on third-and-six from the New York 7, Tuck got loose again and sacked Jason Campbell for a loss of two.

If Tony Romo is going to make the kind of impact the Cowboys want him to make tonight, the Dallas offensive line needs to neutralize New York's defensive front. That means knowing where Tuck is at all times -- and finding a way to stop him.

-- Sam Farmer

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