When Kenny Phillips misses six straight games with a knee injury like he has this season, the Giants don't miss his gaudy numbers or individual accolades.
Because he doesn't have them.
That's just fine for safeties coach David Merritt, who knows his true value – consistency.
"We've missed Kenny tremendously, I know I have," Merritt said earlier this week. "Because Kenny has been a solid football player for us. Nothing spectacular, not off-the-charts Pro Bowl numbers, but Kenny has been very solid for us. I mean you look at the last play, dating back to last year in the Super Bowl, the guy who knocked down that pass -- although they were all up in the air -- Kenny Phillips."
That desperation jump ball fell just short of a lunging tight end named Rob Gronkowski in Lucas Oil Stadium. And it is against players like him that Merritt and the staff misses Phillips the most, especially with Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez coming up in the next four weeks.
In Phillips' absence, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten racked up 18 catches for 167 yards in Week 8, while Jermaine Gresham caught a touchdown last week against the Bengals. However, Gresham's score came on one of just three catches for 15 yards, and Heath Miller managed a pedestrian four receptions for 48 yards the week before against Pittsburgh. So the numbers have varied.
"I would say that it didn't necessarily hurt us, but it's definitely noticeable without him there," Merritt said. "I mean you look at what he did in the past when he played guys like Vernon Davis, Kenny Phillips was able to go out and play any tight end in this league man-to-man. He's big, he's strong, he's tall, he's fast, he's fluid, and so not having him, it didn't help."
There was hope Phillips could have returned for the Steelers game, but he was shut down until after the bye. Now, if all goes according to plan, Phillips will return after the bye.
That means the Giants will have a good problem on their hands with the return of Will Hill, which could lead to three-safety looks. And that's not even mentioning Stevie Brown, who filled in for Phillips and is currently second in the NFL with five interceptions.
"To be able to find out about Stevie Brown with these past five or six games, that has been a breath of fresh air," Merritt said. "That's one of the things when you let a veteran go off into his retirement, basically Deon (Grant), and then you get a guy like Stevie Brown that can come in here and make the plays that he's making. It's like "Wow, that's pretty doggone good.' Of course, we have Will Hill that's coming back to us as well this past weekend. It helps to have multiple safeties that can do different things."