By JOSH THOMSON EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They've only met in the low-intensity setting of the Pro Bowl, but an honest game isn't what Michael Strahan needs to appreciate LaDainian Tomlinson. At the first mention of San Diego's star running back, the Hall of Fame lock turned reverential. "When you watch him on film, he's scary," Strahan said. "I've never seen somebody so quick, fast, powerful and smart. I know he's gotten a lot of accolades, but he's probably the best football player in the league." When the teams play in San Diego Sunday night, Strahan and Co. face the task of defending the league's best rusher, and doing so while he is angry, frustrated and hoping to make amends for lost time. Through the first two games, both Chargers losses, Tomlinson has rushed for just 124 yards on 38 carries, an average of just 3.3 yards. Perhaps more remarkably, he has yet to catch a pass. All this for a player who has averaged 26.3 touches per game during his first four years in the NFL and who caught a team-high 100 passes in 2003. Because he's healthy and just 26, Tomlinson's numbers soon will revert to normal. The Giants just hope it's not until they've left town. They're certain to enter this game very leery of No. 21 in blue and gold. "His stats speak for themselves," Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "It doesn't matter what he's done. You know what he's capable of doing. He's a game-breaker." So far, led by new acquisition Pierce and a healthy and impressive defensive line, the Giants are second in the league at stopping the run. They've allowed 103 yards rushing (2.4 yards per carry) and no touchdowns. Of course, Tomlinson set an NFL record last Sunday by scoring a rushing touchdown for the 14th consecutive game. Entering the season, the Giants knew what they had in Strahan, the NFL's active leader in career sacks, and in fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Because of inexperience, the interior linemen were considered among the team's biggest soft spots. But through two games, starters William Joseph and Kendrick Clancy have performed so well that it's the pass defense, not the run defense, that has been the focus of criticism. "Those guys are really helping us out," outside linebacker Carlos Emmons said of the defensive tackles. "They're keeping the linemen off of us linebackers, allowing us to scrape to the ball and make plays. We weren't able to do that last year. We had so many injuries. We had guys in there that didn't know what was going on." Just as unexpected is the feeling in San Diego. The Chargers finished 12-4 last season as Tomlinson — already the franchise's leading rusher and the NFL's highest-paid back — rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored double-digit rushing touchdowns for the fourth straight season. In training camp, there was talk of the Super Bowl and Tomlinson challenging the NFL single-season rushing record. Tomlinson is widely considered among the most humble, accommodating stars in football, but even he has been troubled by his lack of impact. He spoke about it publicly earlier this week, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I can't tell you I don't wonder, because I do." "Looking at the situation we are in, we have to find a way to get him the ball," coach Marty Schottenheimer said Wednesday. "I wouldn't suggest anything other than that." For the Giants to stave off Tomlinson's breakout game, the defense can't reflect too much on its early-season successes. "Until we finish the whole season," Pierce said, "we can't talk about that." Notes: Rookie cornerback Corey Webster (thigh) practiced yesterday, but the staff eventually shut him down. Said coach Tom Coughlin: "He's got a ways to go." ... Kicker Jay Feely (back) participated in the field-goal portion of practice. ... Strahan (back spasms) said he continues to receive treatment from his chiropractor. "I can't do cartwheels," he said. "But I can play football."