Mulitalo faces tough test in Giants' Strahan

Michael Strahan isn't in severe danger of being provoked by Edwin Mulitalo. Taunting the gifted New York Giants defensive end about the legitimacy of his sack record set last season on a questionable slide by Brett Favre falls short of prudent behavior in the opinion of Mulitalo, the Baltimore Ravens' fledgling right tackle. This isn't the time to enrage the latest NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has been feuding with teammate Tiki Barber.

Especially not in the case of Mulitalo, a converted left guard who gets his fourth start at tackle and his toughest assignment to date in Thursday's preseason finale at New York after a shaky performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I'm not going to get him riled up," Mulitalo said of the gap-toothed Strahan, the $12 million All-Pro who broke Mark Gastineau's pass-rushing record with 22.5 sacks last year. "I don't think he'll talk to me too much, because I don't talk too much. Last year, we had Shannon Sharpe and he got him all worked up and he started talking all that trash.

"I will just go out there and do my job. Hopefully, I can do my job."

The Ravens share that hope and are curious to observe how the 6-foot-3, 340-pound Mulitalo handles this test against the bullish defensive end. Strahan represents a rare blend of size, strength and speed balled into a 6-5, 275-pound package.

He led the league with seven forced fumbles last season and boasts 84.5 career sacks, second in Giants history to Hall of Fame outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

"Strahan's a real good ball player, and he'll give Edwin a real good test as he gets more comfortable out there at tackle," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "It's a whole different world. I know it doesn't sound like it is, but it is, especially at this level.

"You're going from playing against heavy, giant kind of guys inside to guys who are 4.6, 4.7 in the 40-yard dash. That's a whole different experience, plus knowing where the quarterback is, how long it takes the ball to be thrown. It's another major step for him."

Against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Mulitalo was beaten for one sack by Corey Simon on inside pressure and allowed two quarterback pressures.

Since Mulitalo, 27, became a starter as a rookie in 1999, the Ravens sport a 31-11 record and won a Super Bowl title. He hasn't played tackle, though, since his senior year at Arizona, where he thrived in a pass-oriented offense with mobile quarterbacks.

For the Ravens, who failed to secure other tackle candidates in free agency or the draft, this is an experiment that they expect success from.

"I think Edwin's going to be fine," Ravens All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "It's a tough move, but he's a good athlete and a hard worker. He'll do whatever it takes to get the job done."

Strahan will challenge Mulitalo in different ways than Detroit Lions Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Porcher did in the preseason opener. Porcher used strong technique and initial quickness to beat Mulitalo to the punch to strike quarterback Chris Redman.

Strahan generates pressure with a variety of bull rush, swim, spin and speed-rush moves. Explosiveness and brute strength are Mulitalo's best traits, but getting accustomed to the athletes that play defensive end is extremely difficult.

"What a great way for Edwin to finish off his preparation against as good as there is in the league, and to measure just how far he's come at tackle," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

One preseason game after struggling to block Porcher, Mulitalo made notable improvement. He handled New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis by using the former Tennessee star's momentum against him. Ellis didn't register a sack, collecting only one tackle.

"I was edgy in those early games," Mulitalo said. "I'm starting to feel more comfortable now."

Strahan hasn't exactly tried to prove anything thus far in the preseason, with only four tackles and no sacks. Mulitalo doesn't want to ignite the fire.

One bankable prediction for the Giants game is Mulitalo won't bring up how Favre audibled a quarterback keeper in the final minutes of the fourth quarter last year and gravitated directly toward Strahan.

 "I won't say that," Mulitalo said. "He deserves all he gets."

Baltimore needs Mulitalo to protect Redman enough by himself so offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh doesn't have to constantly devote a tight end to chip block troublesome pass rushers like the Titans' Jevon Kearse or the Steelers' Jason Gildon.

"My expectations are a little higher than other people's," Mulitalo said. "I don't want to be an average tackle. I'm trying to be an excellent tackle. I don't want them hitting Chris Redman at all."


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