Defensive Line Injuries Can Spell Trouble

New York is facing all sorts of Defensive issues. When the defensive line is your best weapon, it could spell trouble.

Steve Spagnuolo's philosophy last season was to get his best 11 athletes on the field. That was all well and good when he had a wealth of talent at his disposal.

However, since the Giants' defensive coordinator orchestrated a defense that sacked Tom Brady five times and constantly harassed the Patriots quarterback in the Super Bowl, left end Michael Strahan has retired and right end Osi Umenyiora has been lost for the entire 2008 season with a knee injury.

Last season, Spagnuolo would move Mathias Kiwanuka from outside linebacker to defensive tackle on obvious passing downs, tinkered with using Justin Tuck at end and tackle and generally experimented with any combination he thought would get to the quarterback.

But suddenly, the Giants' vaunted pass rush is scrambling and looking to use several unproven youngsters in critical roles.

Tuck figures to start at left end, but the rest is a crap shoot. Third-year man Dave Tollefson, who has six games of regular-season experience and no starts, could be asked to fill in for Umenyiora. More important, one of the staples of Spagnuolo's defense is the ability to move players around and take advantage of fresh bodies. But behind Tuck and Tollefson is a mix of veteran Renaldo Wynn and rookies Wallace Gilberry and Alex Morrow.

Even before Umenyiora's injury, the team had experimented with sliding tackle Jay Alford outside to improve depth.

So it came as no surprise when one of the first questions asked of coach Tom Coughlin on Sunday was weather the team had contacted Strahan about coming out of retirement.

"You know what? Someone has already raised that today and I haven't really talked to anyone at this point in time about anything, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "I am sure that (GM) Jerry Reese and I and ownership will look long and hard at whatever options are out there and do what is best here at this point in time."

It would appear a long shot that Strahan will un-retire. More likely, Spagnuolo will consider moving Kiwanuka back to end, where he played in college and during his rookie season.

Whatever the answer, Spagnuolo needs to determine a solution soon. Quarterback Eli Manning might have taken home the MVP trophy from Phoenix, but it was Spagnuolo's crew that led the charge to one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

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