We have talked quite frequently about New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips and the fact that he is set to become a free agent in March. I thought it would be prudent to look back at the season and compare the defense in the games that Phillips played against those when he was out injured. Obviously, this is a snapshot and I'll be drawing conclusions that are not comprehensive, but it's just a way to talk about the "real" value of Kenny Phillips.
Phillips only played in seven games this season.
Week 1 vs. the Dallas Cowboys
The Giants gave up 24 points and loss the game. Philips recorded a 0.0 from Pro Footfall Focus (4 tackles). The Cowboys rushed for 143 yards and passed for 290 yards for 433 total yards.
Week 2 vs the Buccaneers
The Giants gave up 34 points and won the game. Phillips recorded a +1.8 from Pro Football Focus (6 tackles and a pass defensed). The Buccaneers rushed for 79 yards and passed for 228 yards 307 yards.
Week 3 at the Panthers
The Giants only gave up 7 points as they walloped the Panthers. Phillips +0.7 PFF rating (5 tackles). The Giants gave up 60 yards rushing and 267 yards passing (327 total)
Week 4 at Philadelphia
The Giants gave up 19 points in a loss. Phillips scored a -1.8 from PFF (5 tackles). The Giants give up 191 yards rushing and 231 yards passing (422 total).
Week 12 vs Green Bay Packers
The Giants give up 10 points. Phillips had a +1.8 PFF rating 5 tackles). 116 yards rushing 201 yards passing (307 total).
Week 13 vs Washington
The Giants give up 17 points in the loss to the Redskins. Phillips gets a +0.3 PFF rating (1 tackle) and the Giants surrender 207 yards rushing, 163 yards passing (370 total).
Week 17 vs the Eagles
The Giants give up 7 points in the win .Phillips has a +3.9 PFF rating (4 tackles, 2 passes defensed). 207 yards passing and a 110 yards rushing (317 total).
The basic numbers tell us that the Giants had a record of 4-3 with Kenny Phillips (and thus a 5-4 record without Phillips). The Giants also gave up an average of 16.85 points per game in games Phillips played. They gave up an average of 112.85 yards rushing per game and 226.7 yards passing per game (340 yards per game) in games that Phillips played. Phillips was personally and directly responsible (caused fumbles, recovered fumbles, or intercepted a pass) for zero turnovers on the season, but the team did still cause turnovers when Phillips played.
If the Giants had a full season with Phillips and averaged those numbers the rankings would be 13th in yards per game, 15th in rushing yards per game, 17th in passing yards per game, and No. 2 in points per game.
In games in which Phillips did not play the Giants gave up 417.11 yards per game, 25.1 points per game, 141.89 yards rushing per game, and 275.8 yards passing per game.
Without Phillips those rankings are: 30th in passing yards per game, 31st in rushing yards per game, and 27th in points per game.
Based on these numbers alone Phillips was responsible for an average of basically 8 points per game, nearly 30 rushing yards per game, and 50 yards passing per game (assuming that my arithmetic is correct). But like I said the 4-3 record when Phillips played is similar to the 5-4 in games in which he did not play.
Another interesting stat I saw was that the Giants were 6-0 in games in which Stevie Brown had an interception, so how many of those interceptions can we infer were because of the presence of Phillips?
Brown had an interception in the following games: Carolina (KP played), Cleveland (no KP), The first Washington game (No KP), the second Dallas game X2 (no KP, 2 INT), the New Orleans game X2 (No KP), and the Eagles game (KP).
Stevie Brown had four games with interceptions (all victories) when Kenny Phillips did not play, and two games with interceptions when Phillips played (victories) as well.
Record in games in which Stevie Brown started -- 7-4.
Brown had 11 starts and racked up 78 tackles, 11 passes defensed, eight interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Phillips had 24 tackles, no picks, 2 passes defensed, no forced fumbles.
What does all this mean?
Well first let me mention that it's obviously dangerous to make definite statements based on a strictly defined set of criteria. What about the level of quarterback play (and offensive productivity) in games that Phillips played vs. the games when he was absent? What other injuries were present when Phillips missed games? What were the turnover numbers like with Phillips and without Phillips? How much of the success of the defense was reliant on the play of the offense in the games that Phillips was available, etc? But there are some things we might be able to draw from this set of data, and this is what I gather.
I think the Giants defense is definitely better when Phillips plays, but the records are pretty even, however, Brown's ability to make big plays was just as important in terms of victories as the presence of Phillips. There are two ways to play good defense in the National Football League. Limit yardage and points, or create turnovers to limit points. Brown is not the protector of the deep half of the field Phillips is, but he has good instincts and is always around the football, even though this was his first year of seeing any real action on. This is something that should improve with a full training camp of first-team reps (remember, he was brought in to play special teams and did not receive a lot of practice reps in training camp).
As an aside, people whine and complain about Perry Fewell's scheme, but the coaching is the same with and without Kenny Phillips -- when the team would (assuming a consistent average, which is impossible to project) would have been the No. 2 overall team in the league in points allowed per game. The coaching and system were also the same when the Giants were dominant in last year's post-season run. So it's possible (and I've been on an island for this one), that people should lay off Fewell a bit and recognize that there are personnel issues that (in my opinion) far exceed the defensive coaching issues.
I think it's also clear that Phillips clears up many things in the back end and that the Giants could not trust an inexperienced player who was trying to learn the defense on the fly throughout the season, and they approached things differently. But this is not a referendum on Fewell's coaching ability. It's a question about the value of Phillips.
I think it's clear that the Giants defense is better with Phillips than it is without him, but the real question is, do the Giants need to bring back Phillips? Based on preliminary numbers it looks like some cap issues are looming, at what point do the Giants have to move on from Phillips and what kind of money will he command on the free-agent market? Or, is he a top priority for the off-season?
Is it more important to bring back Phillips, or Martellus Bennett, for example. Or is it better to let Phillips hit free agency and trust in the depth at safety with Brown and Will Hill (who also flashed at times)?
Personally, I think the way to go is to let Phillips walk. I'm assuming there is no hometown discount here and that he'll be coveted in the free agency market. Obviously a million dollar a year contract or even two million a year and I would love to have Phillips back, but I would rather ensure that Will Beatty is re-signed, that Bennett is re-signed. I also think that Brown and Will Hill are more than capable of replacing Phillips. Both are young players who should improve during the off-season (as a bonus Pro Football Focus rated Stevie Brown with a +4.1 score, and Will Hill as a +3.0 score, Phillips was a +7.1) with a full off-season of getting reps. I also imagine that the Giants will focus on improving the linebackers corps and the defensive line, which will only further help the secondary -- especially with Jerry Reese saying this on Monday:
"I do think it was a banged up unit for the most part of the season. I do think we have to have better linebacker play moving forward."
Vote in the poll and let us know what you think the Giants should do in regards to Phillips next season.