The expectations for the 2010 New York Giants safety regime were quite high, to put it mildly. This “inimitable” squadron turned out to be…well..not too bad. This, of course, is debatable. Despite a few bumps in the road, one of the Big Blue safeties was voted to the Pro Bowl.
Paralleling the children’s tale, “Goldilocks And The Three Bears” (minus Goldilocks), Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips represent the three facets of a professional football player’s career. Phillips – a relative rookie. Rolle – close to the midpoint of his profession. Grant – a seasoned veteran with more days behind him than in front.
2010 marked Rolle and Grant’s first year with the Giants franchise. One would never know it going by all the media attention that these two attracted. Phillips, on the other hand, has been with the Giants since they drafted him in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. After only two games into the 2009 regular season, Kenny Phillips found himself with a season ending knee injury.
Ironically enough, Rolle and Grant both found themselves suffering from serious injuries in their rookie years. Rolle missed 11 games throughout 2005 due to his knee injury. Grant, on the other hand, missed his entire rookie season due to a fractured hip. Grant went on to start in 144 consecutive games, a streak that ended when he joined the Giants this past season. Deon Grant only got 8 starts in 2010. Excluding his rookie year, this was the first season where Grant did not start in all 16 games.
Each component of the New York Giants roster seemed to have formed a deep, rooted bond. No bond was more apparent than that of the one between Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. The affinity and mutual respect amongst the safety unit didn’t get as much publicity as the running backs did but it was there nonetheless.
During the 2010 training camp, Antrel Rolle said the following of his fellow safety,
“Deon (Grant) and myself we clicked the first day since we’ve been here. He’s an extreme veteran, being it’s his 11th season. I follow in his footsteps a lot. I watched him play for many many years. Right now, we’re pushing each other. We’re making each other better.”
That very same day, Deon Grant spoke to the media about his thoughts on Kenny Phillips,
“Before they signed us, he looked good. You have to give the guy credit. He got great range. He will come down to hit and he got a mind on him. When you have all those channels as a safety, you’ve got a great safety right there.”
Kenny Phillips said of Rolle and Grant,
“Even though we’re all competing for the same job, we still help each other out. I learn a lot from them. They teach me how to practice. They help me out in the film room. I’m learning a lot from them, just watching them.”
Phillips was already accustomed to the way the Big Blue machine operated having already been on the team for 3 seasons. Deon Grant was not familiar with the way things worked within the Giants organization. However, he was familiar with the way Tom Coughlin operated. Grant joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004, a team that still incorporated many of Coughlin’s ideals, even though he had left the team at the close of 2002. The only member of this safety trio who was not aware of the Coughlin curriculum was Antrel Rolle.
Rolle was quite outspoken throughout the season, sometimes a little too much. He took things that should have stayed in the locker room and conveyed them to the media. He adamantly assured the world that the New York Giants would make it into the playoffs, something I am sure he wishes he could take back now. Earlier in the year, he addressed his brash comments,
“I am who I am. I was who I was before I came here. I am going to stay this way while I’m here and I’m going to be the same once I leave here.”
This is all big talk from a player who let a number of big plays get by him. Yet, Antrel Rolle finds himself with one more game to play this season…in Honolulu. He finished the season off as the second leading tackler on the team. His final stats are, 87 combined tackles – 75 solo, 12 assists, 0.5 sacks, 1 INT, 5 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. Antrel Rolle’s upcoming Pro Bowl appearance, as a reserve, proves the point of the power of the press. The leading tackler of the NY Giants, Terrell Thomas, was not as vocal in the press and had a much better year than Rolle. “T2″ was not selected to the Pro Bowl. Go figure.
Deon Grant had a very solid year. He didn’t stop every play that went his way but he was ferocious while out on the field. Grant finished with 72 combined tackles – 56 solo, 16 assists, 1.0 sack, 3 INT, 13 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. Kenny Phillips finished out with 77 combined tackles – 60 solo, 17 assists, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 6 pass deflections and 3 fumble recoveries.
The thing I would like to bring attention to, for those playing along at home, are the pass deflections, forced fumbles and interceptions. When evaluating a safety by the numbers, these are the key attributes to consider. With that train of thought, the safety who made the biggest impact was Deon Grant. Considering that he only started 8 games I would have to say that is correct. Grant is also a consummate professional and has the talent and class that this organization prides itself on.
Kenny Phillips is a great athlete. His injury, which wiped him out of duty in 2009, was unfortunate and feasibly hindered his performance this year to some degree. I suspect that he will have a better outing next season. Antrel Rolle, well he is another matter. He is a talented safety. But is he the safety for us? The New York Giants and the Coughlin regime do not take kindly to drama outside of the locker room. Rolle had words to say right out of the gate and has continued to exercise his tongue in the very short span since the season ended.
All season long he maintained that the G-Men would iron out all of their mistakes, that he would address the things that he needed to fix in his own performance. Now he seems to be making excuses for the big plays and mental errors he has made during the course of the season, according to a report by Mike Garafalo. Hopefully, Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell can reign Antrel Rolle in before he evolves into the league’s next diva.
Topics: Ahmad Bradshaw, Antrel Rolle, Brandon Jacobs, Deon Grant, Giants, Giants/National Football League, Kenny Phillips, National Football League, New York Giants, NFC East, Perry Fewell, Sean Kerr, Tom Coughlin