Tuck filling big shoes as Strahan's replacement Print
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Tuesday, 12 August 2008 12:11
NFL Headline News

 ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -Justin Tuck sees himself as an athlete in space.
A defensive end by trade, the fourth-year New York Giants lineman can play almost anywhere on the front seven, and even fantasizes about playing cornerback and safety.
Around the NFL, most teams will see Tuck in one new role this season. He is replacing seven-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan at left defensive end for the Super Bowl champions.
Tuck smiles when asked about taking over for Strahan, who retired in June, ending a 15-year career four months after winning his first championship.
``Other than the fact that you don't have '92' telling you exactly what is coming and what to expect, there really isn't much difference this year,'' Tuck said. ``It isn't like it's a new position for me. I'm a starter now. That's it.''
Tuck is far from an untested player. He appeared in all 20 games last season, starting two. He had a career-best 10 sacks and 58 tackles during the regular season. The Notre Dame product added 18 tackles and two sacks in the postseason, with both sacks and five tackles coming in the Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots.
Tuck didn't adjust his offseason training after Strahan's retirement. He played as much as ``Stray'' did last season and knows how to get his body ready.
``I am not going to change my game,'' Tuck said. ``I'm just going to build on what we established last year and continue getting better.''
There will be obvious differences on the field.
Strahan, who was the NFL's active sacks leader when he retired and one of the league's top ends against the run, used to get many of the double- and triple-team assignments from opposing offenses.
Tuck believes offenses will now slide their lines toward Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora and probably have a tackle and back chip him. With a straight face, Tuck insists he does not believe he should be doubled.
``Maybe I am baiting some offensive coordinators not to double-team me right now,'' Tuck said. ``Honestly, I am the new guy on the block, (but) I feel I am going to go out there and give whoever tries to block me a long night.''
Tuck believes the Giants defense is going to be good this season, even without its longtime leader.
With the exception of Strahan, everyone on the defensive line has returned. The linebackers are solid with Antonio Pierce and Mathias Kiwanuka back, and the secondary has gotten stronger with the addition of safety Kenny Phillips and free-agent safety Sammy Knight.
The unit also is more comfortable working with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for a second year.
``We have everything in already that we are going to throw at people,'' Tuck said. ``It's a lot of the same things, but we have more twists to them. It will be a little more complex, but we are ready for that. Now we can make a lot of the calls he is making.''
Despite a loss to Detroit in the opening preseason game, Tuck was encouraged. The defense has been focused, aggressive and playing with an edge.
``We were (angry) that Detroit scored on the first drive, and I like that,'' Tuck said.
Tuck said he is content simply to be No. 91 in the absence of No. 92.
``There is no freewheeling and freestyling out there,'' Tuck said. ``There are 11 guys on the football field for a reason, and we all have to play as one. When one doesn't, that's when you get the big plays and you don't play your best defense.''
 

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