The New York Giants drafted Kenny Phillips with their No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft hoping that he would become the next in a long line of great safeties from the University of Miami.
With James Butler now in St. Louis, and only Michael Johnson and free-agent signee C.C. Brown as other proven options at safety, the Giants will need Phillips to begin fulfilling that prophesy in 2009.
I think most members of our community are in love with what Phillips could become, or at least what we want him to be.
Here is what I wrote about KP while reviewing the 2008 Draft back in February.
Phillips was, and still is, looked at as the next great player in the long line of safeties to come out of the University of Miami. That list includes Ed Reed, Sean Taylor and Brandon Meriweather.
Phillips proved to be a hard hitter and a sure tackler as a rookie with the Giants. I am not sure, though, that he played the number of snaps or made the type of overall impact the Giants hoped for when they made him the first safety selected in last year's draft.
That said, though, I see no reason to be anything other than optimistic about Phillips' future with the Giants. ...
Phillips is part of an excellent young core of players the Giants have in their secondary. I expect him to be an impact player for a long time, and to make a few Pro Bowls before he is done.
I still believe those words. As the off-season has progressed, however, a couple of things have nagged at me when I think about Phillips.
One is why couldn't he take more snaps away from the adequate, but somewhat slow-footed Butler last season?
Was it simply because then-defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had a comfort level with the veteran Butler, who had been making calls in his system for two seasons? Maybe that's the case since Spags wasted no time bringing Butler to St. Louis to help him rebuild that team's porous defense.
Or, and this is the thing I don't want to think about, was Phillips' play just not good enough?
Here is what safeties coach David Merritt said in summarizing Phillips' rookie season.
Kenny, as far as a safety, I think he is right there on task as being the player that we want him to be in the future. And not to speak negatively about what he did with the other teams, other than what he has done with……safety, but I don’t think he met our expectations when it came to special teams. And that is just being honest. I think he could have done a little more and I think this year he will do a little more. Although you have an opportunity to possibly become a starter this year, you still are not exempt from special teams. But as far as the rookie safety …. I think he probably had one or two starts. He did okay. He did okay. Now he has a long way to go. The kid is 218 pounds right now. He is a well built young man who is working hard here. But as far as meeting my expectations for him, no, I would love to see him make the Pro Bowl, just as I would love to see all of my guys make the Pro Bowl. But he had a solid rookie season.
Maybe I am reading something that isn't there, but that feels like a lukewarm assessment of Phillips' play in 2008.
The Giants need Phillips to become the player they were hoping for when they drafted him. The 2009 season should go a long way toward telling us if that is the player he will ultimately become.
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