There will be no hyped-up homecoming for Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty, the Cowboys free agent who was gearing up for an unfriendly reunion with his former teammates Sunday in Dallas until he was ruled out with a calf injury Friday. It's sad for Canty, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the loss changes "nothing" for his defensive line, which is a strong commentary on the backbone of his team.

Canty's loss is not the only one the Giants' defense is facing. Starting strong safety Kenny Phillips did not practice Friday because of right knee swelling, was listed as questionable and might be replaced by C.C. Brown. Nickel back Kevin Dockery (hamstring) also is questionable, and free-agent weak-side linebacker Michael Boley is expected to make his first start.

But no matter what issues the rest of the defense might have, the D-line remains the great equalizer. It showed in the opening win over Washington, when the defensive line made the key plays, and it will be even more important against Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and a veteran offensive line with Pro Bowlers Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode.

"They're one of the biggest lines in the league, one of the most talented, and they've played together for years, which is a great asset," Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "It's a tough task, and they play even better at home."

While the loss of Canty will shorten the rotation from four defensive tackles to three, Cofield said: "Guys have to play more snaps than they did last week, but we're pretty much accustomed to having three tackles. It was a luxury to have a fourth. It's kind of going back to normal, as opposed to being an extreme situation."

With Romo and running backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones, the Cowboys have a far more dynamic offense than Washington did. Comparing Romo with Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, defensive end Justin Tuck said: "He's more experienced and has the ability to make plays with his feet a little more than Jason did. I don't think Jason is as comfortable in the pocket as Romo might be. We understand the challenge."

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In most third-down situations, Tuck moves to left tackle next to Cofield to get Mathias Kiwanuka on the field with Osi Umenyiora at the ends. Few teams have as many talented pass rushers as the Giants, and that can cover for any sins by the secondary.

"Every Sunday is a party out there," Cofield said of the defensive line. "It's a race to the quarterback, a race to the ball. It's a bunch of different guys who are hungry and talented. We have eight guys trying to make big plays. Odds are one of them is going to make them."

Notes & quotes: Phillips, who missed Friday's practice as a precaution, said he must nurse his injured knee all season. "It's a long season,'' he said, "but I think we can get it done." . . . SS replacement Brown was a four-year starter in Houston . . . Coughlin indicated WR Ramses Barden will step in for injured Hakeem Nicks (foot) . . . CB Corey Webster and Washington WR Santana Moss were fined $5,000 apiece for their altercation Sunday, and Redskins S LaRon Landry was fined $5,000 for a late hit on RB Brandon Jacobs.