- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At times, Kenny Phillips can be the comic book superhero. Just as easily, he can be the sidekick.
Just ask Giants safeties coach David Merritt.
"You don't have to have all Batmans. You got to have some Robins. And the thing about Kenny is he's one of those guys that he can be a Batman, but at the same time, Kenny's a very good Robin," Merritt said last Monday. "That guy who doesn't have to be in the media all the time.
"He's a tremendous talent we do miss."
The Giants are hoping to have their strong safety back after the bye as they embark on their final six games of the regular season. Phillips has missed the team's last six games with a MCL sprain he suffered against the Eagles. During his absence, the team has received strong play from backup Stevie Brown.
"We miss Kenny, because (he's) a guy that has played well for us and he has been consistent for us over the years," Merritt said. "To be able to find out about Stevie Brown with these past five or six games, that has been a breath of fresh air."
Phillips suffered his injury against the Eagles on Sept. 30, but it appeared he would be able to return before the team's bye. He practiced all week leading up to the game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 4, even saying he would be playing, but instead was inactive. The team held him out of the following weekend's loss to Cincinnati, as he wasn't ready to play yet.
While Brown has played well filling in, not having Phillips has affected the team in how it has matched up against tight ends. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had 18 catches for 167 yards against the Giants on Oct. 28. Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham caught a touchdown.
"We miss him in more ways than one. Not only in the post or in the half, but his athletic talent to cover a guy like Jason Witten or Gresham," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "It's a big loss when you have a talented player like that."
Having Brown step up and play well in Phillips' absence has been a blessing for the Giants. He earned Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts in a victory at Dallas, and has been fantastic at creating turnovers. When Phillips comes back, the team will look to use the three-safety set it used so successfully last season during its run to the Super Bowl.
"We like to think we can," Fewell said. "Obviously, we'd like to get Kenny back to practicing and see how we can incorporate that package. That's in my plans. That was in my plans a couple of weeks ago. I'm looking forward to when he can come back and we can actually put that together."