Has a player ever won NFC Defensive Player of the Week and then been benched the following week? That could be exactly what happens to New York Giants safety Stevie Brown, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in Sunday's victory in Dallas, but could find himself having to step aside this week when starter Kenny Phillips, for whom Brown has been filling in so well over the past four games, returns from his knee injury.
"He did what he was supposed to do," Phillips told reporters after Giants practice Thursday. "He took advantage of an opportunity. It's rare that a guy loses his position to an injury, but it's possible with the way he's playing. I'm not worried about it. Whatever role they give me, I'll take it. If I have to back up my backup, I'll do it."
It's hard to see the Giants giving Phillips' starting job to Brown based on four games, no matter how well he played. Phillips has a substantial track record as one of the most effective safeties in the league, and he's right that teams don't generally like to take people's jobs away from them just because of injury.
All of that said, however, Brown has likely played himself into something of a larger role than he had before Phillips' injury. It's possible he could allow them to ease Phillips back in, assuming Phillips can play this week against the Steelers as he said he would. Limiting Phillips' reps in his first game back from injury might be a wise move anyway, and knowing they have a more-than-acceptable fill-in option in Brown would help them do that. It's also possible that the Giants would use more three-safety looks going forward. They used a lot of those in the past two seasons when Deon Grant was on the team, but improved quality depth at linebacker this year has pushed them away from such looks. The emergence of Brown as a starting-quality player should offer defensive coordinator Perry Fewell improved flexibility in terms of what he's able to do from a scheme standpoint.
Regardless of what happens, there's no doubt Brown's play over the past month impressed Phillips.
"I was trying to figure out why they couldn't see him," Phillips said. "Half of the time he would be sitting in the middle of the field and they would just throw the ball and he's making them pay for it. He's done a great job for us, and he's made a whole lot of plays."