The New York Giant safeties – FS Antrel Rolle; SS Kenny Phillips – believe they can be the best safety tandem in the NFL. They can, if both are healthy. But Phillips, who is coming off ’09 microfracture knee surgery, still isn’t cutting much. At his best, Phillips is perhaps a slightly faster version of the late Sean Taylor. His closing speed and pop at the point of contact are phenomenal.
Still, over the offseason, the Giants brought in veteran Deon Grant and spent a third-round pick on Chad Jones. Grant is somewhat of a journeyman plugger. He had a non-impact in Seattle – particularly when asked to stay out of the box and hold down centerfield – but in Jacksonville and Carolina, he provided consistent stability. Jones is a cover safety from LSU who is still raw. But teams generally don’t spend third-round picks on projected long-term backups.
With Phillips, the Giants are dominant at safety. Without him, they’re still more than adequate. Newcomer Antrel Rolle, a former first-round cornerback, is excellent in coverage. Versatility augments Rolle’s range (he’s capable of shadowing the slot and playing from a backpedal). Rolle is also a first-class playmaker with the ball in his hand and a deft open-field tackler.
Great safeties allow for aggressive cornerback play. New York’s trio of corners, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross, thrived in press coverage under Steve Spagnuolo in ’08. Expect the Giants to get back to this in 2010.
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