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Safeties Coach David Merritt on Kenny Phillips


Q: What has Antrel Rolle showed you so far?A: Antrel came into the league as a corner as we all know. He has transitioned into the safety position but then for him to now transition back to a corner, he actually said the other day, not in seven years would I have thought that I would be back at the corner position. He has done a good job. For him to go into the slot position and cover that third wideout that comes into the game fresh when he has been on the field the entire time is tough. That is the one thing that I want to make sure everyone understands. A lot of times when that third wideout comes in, you bring in your third or fourth DB and they are both fresh and going to battle. Antrel is on the field the whole entire time and then all of a sudden he has to cover that third wideout who just came on the field as a fresh player. We have put him into man-to-man situations as well as zone and he has responded. He really has and he is doing a really good job.

Q: When Prince got hurt, did you look at Antrel as the first option?A: It actually goes back to when we first came into camp, we said we were going to use Terrell Thomas as the nickel and use Prince on the outside as well as Corey Webster or Aaron Ross. Then all of a sudden Prince and Terrell Thomas go down and you say who is the next best guy now. It is Antrel Rolle. We were never going to use Prince in that position right away. It would have been Antrel as the second nickel and when Terrell Thomas went down, that is when it accelerated his mental as far as learning the slot position which he hasn't done in a couple years. If you go back to last year, he actually played in our three safety package at the nickel position. I actually related it to when we called it x, y, or z last year and that is all you are doing but just a little more. It is a little more man-to-man. He has responded well.

Q: How has Kenny Phillips played so far?A: Kenny has actually come back and every game he is actually playing at a high level right now. Kenny is playing the best that I have seen him since he has been here with the Giants especially coming off that microfracture two years ago. Going into last year, we were trying to hold him back a little bit and now all of a sudden he has free rein. Kenny has done an excellent job for us as far as what he is doing in the run as well as the pass. I have to make sure I get him back at deep safety a little more so that he can control the airways a little more but he has done an excellent job. Deon Grant came back to us and again if you look at some of the injuries that have occurred, Jon Goff at that linebacker position, we didn't intend for him to come back and play as a deep safety. Deon last year played the Will linebacker position for us so he was down around the box. Now because we don't have anybody that we are comfortable with in the back end, Deon is having to play that safety position and that is a little different for him as well as Antrel. We have two guys that are coming in and playing positions that they didn't think they would have to play a lot of. That's what they are doing and they are doing well.

Q: Is playing Nickel causing the big gains in the running game?A: No, I think the reason why is because of gap integrity and the experience of the players who have been run at us. When you have younger players at positions and this is their first year in the NFL, it is tough on them. It is a learning curve that they are going through right now. Jon Goff could have answered a lot of things and we all know that. Terrell Thomas could have answered a lot of things and we all know that. Prince Amukamara could have answered a lot of things and we all know that but without those guys there, your second and third team guys have to be able to step in. We can always recall what we did years ago back in Philly in 07, we had to put in two young safeties in Craig (Dahl) and (Michael) Johnson. They had to step up because (Gibril) Wilson and (James) Butler were injured so your young players have to step up and win games for you. They only had to step up for one or maybe two games, these guys are having to play the entire season because of injuries. I just think it is the fact of experience and gap integrity and understanding that here is where we would like you to fit so just get in that place.

Q: What have you seen from Jacquian Williams?A: He is a tremendous athlete. He had his hand down in college, he was a former defensive lineman and defensive end. Now he is standing up and trying to read all these blocking schemes. For the kid to come in and do what he has done so far is good. We are 4-2 and don't get me wrong, we would love to sit back and take back that 70 yard run and that 80 yard run and all those runs but he has helped us more than he has hurt us. I see a kid that is going to continue to progress and help us out as a defense and help the Giants.

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