The Giants have always been best known for their defense, with perhaps the immortal line backer Sam Huff as the progenitor of the tradition and Lawrence Taylor as the exclamation point. When one reminisces about the New York Football Giants thoughts of linebackers, defensive ends, nose tackles and even a few corners conjure up images of dominate players excelling at the highest levels. NY Giant safeties simply do not stir one’s imagination to the same degree. Although blessed with one of the greatest of all time in the person of Hall of Fame and first African-American inductee Emlen Tunnel, the Giants have not had an impact player of that quality in perhaps more than a half century. It could be argued that Jimmy Patton was a fine
player, and he was. Certainly there were others who flashed brilliance for a season or 2 but never established a tradition of excellence. (Erich Barnes was a corner) So it is not without due consideration that I suggest the tandem of Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips may be their best combination since Jimmy Patton and Em Tunnell patrolled the defensive backfields so many years ago. Despite a lack of pedigree and tradition at the safety position for the Giants, I am an enthusiastic advocate for teams having impact safeties. In years past Ronny Lott, Kenny Easley, and Jack Tatum instilled actual fear in their opponents as do contemporary players Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. Their play leaves me pining for a game changing safety
strapping on the NYG colors. Watching a tight end streaking down the field, looking for a seam, as the opposing safety vectors in, all of us anticipating a collision so profound that in any other arena it would be criminal, is an element that distinguishes football from all other sport. To me, that embodies the very essence of football.
Now that I have revealed my primordial blood-lust, let’s take a look at the Giants probable rostrum of safeties for the 2011-2012 season. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are the starters from last year and will assume the same role this year. Despite a serious and season ending 2009-2010 knee injury requiring the dreaded micro-fracture surgery, Kenny Phillips recovered nicely and performed at a much higher than expected level; grading out as the ninth best safety in the league. (According to ProFootballFocus) Truly a remarkable achievement considering his physical state as late as the beginning of camp last year and lending credence to being a first round selection in 2008
Phillips exhibited excellent run stopping abilities grading out as the third best run stopper in the business. With another year under his belt and some more confidence, Phillips could easily skyrocket up to a top 5 safety. Certainly the Giants have no immediate concerns as far as Kenny Phillips goes, in lieu of the ubiquitous caveat, barring injury.