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Original Issue

Beating Double Teams Like it or not, the Giants' Michael Strahan is getting the star treatment

The shortest distance to the quarterback keeps getting longer
for Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who, after a
breakthrough 14-sack season last year, rarely finds only a
single blocker trying to prevent him from getting into the

"I've seen tackle-guard, tackle-tight end, tackle-back, tight
end-back and, worst of all, tackle-tight end-back," Strahan said
last Friday as he prepared to dig into a plate of barbecue. But
talk of double- and triple-team blocking curbed his appetite, so
Strahan handed the still full dish to a teammate before
continuing. "This year against the Redskins, Raiders and
Chargers, I'd go outside of the tackle and find a tight end
waiting. So I'd go inside of the tackle, only to find a back

The tactic that gives Strahan the most trouble is when a team
assigns a sort of hidden assassin to lie in wait. Instead of
stepping up to assist the tackle just after the snap, this player
moves in only if Strahan starts to gain an advantage over his
primary blocker.

For Strahan the key going into Sunday night's game against the
Falcons was to identify that extra blocker. "They'll be starting
a rookie tackle [Ephraim Salaam] against me, so [right guard]
Gene Williams will probably be keeping an eye on me," said
Strahan. "This week I've studied how the tackle will try to
block me so that I can find a way to deal with him while still
keeping an eye out for the other guy. The hardest thing is to
rush against a player and turn your body so that the other guy
can't hit you."

Sure enough, the Falcons slid Williams over to help Salaam
throughout their 34-20 dumping of the Giants. Strahan was
double- or triple-teamed on 20 of Atlanta's 29 pass plays,
though he did pick up a first-quarter sack by lining up at left
defensive tackle and blowing past a surprised Williams. "Someone
was always watching to make sure that Salaam wasn't alone,"
Falcons offensive line coach Art Shell said. "It's a part of the
game for me," said Strahan, who is tied for third in the league
with seven sacks. "A bad part."

--Richard Deutsch

COLOR PHOTO: LENNY IGNELZI/AP Despite the extra attention, Strahan is on pace to exceed his sack total of '97. [Michael Strahan sacking Ryan Leaf]