Let's look at the safety position today as we continue our look at some of the most interesting position battles we are likely to see this summer when training camp opens for the Giants in Albany later this month.
I am going to do this a little differently today. I will go player-by-player, then make some predictions.
James Butler -- Butler is entering his fourth season, and last year was his first as the starting strong safety. He had 69 tackles and just one interception last year. The Giants might move him to free safety this season. He's decent, but nothing special. Really, he seems like an adequate guy just holding a place until someone better comes along. That might happen this season.
- Sammy Knight -- The 12-year veteran was signed as a free agent to replace Gibril Wilson, who bolted for big money in Oakland. Knight is a strong safety, which means Butler may have to move to the other side. Knight started 15 games last season and had 79 tackles and four interceptions. He can still play, but he can't provide the dynamic play-making or off-the-edge blitzing that Wilson could.
- Kenny Phillips -- The Giants' No. 1 draft pick was the perfect choice, the guy the Giants seemingly wanted all along with the 31st pick in the draft. He figures to push either Butler or Knight aside for a starting spot before the season is over. NFL Draft Countdown said this about Phillips prior to the draft, "The next in a long line of top Hurricane safeties, following in the footsteps of guys like Bennie Blades, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor and Brandon Meriweather ... could rank amongst the Top 10 safeties in the NFL relatively early on in his career."
- Michael Johnson -- In a look at the safety position, here is what Giants.com had to say about Johnson. "Will give Butler a run for his money at free safety. Going into his second year Johnson showed flashes last year of being an impact player on defense. Drafted in the seventh round out of Arizona, Johnson showed a lot of raw athletic ability, starting five games. His speed and ability to attack the ball was on display, but he’s still a little raw." Giants fans can only hope that the flashes Johnson showed last season turn into consistent excellence. A Phillips-Johnson combo would give the Giants a pair of exciting, young, athletic, play-making safeties at the back of their defense. That would be the ideal scenario.
Others in the mix
Undrafted free agents Nehemiah Warrick and Terrance Stringer are the only other safeties on the roster. Warrick, cousin of Peter Warrick, played for Michigan State and has the reputation of being an aggressive player with a chance to help a team, at least as a kick coverage guy. He seems like a guy who might be worth keeping an eye on.
Butler and Knight could do an adequate job for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. If either Phillips or Johnson -- and preferably both -- are able to step up and take starting roles the Giants have a chance to have an exceptional secondary.