EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Stevie Brown has not only taken Kenny Phillips’ job at safety with the New York Giants, he’s given defensive coordinator Perry Fewell his three-safety defense again.
Fewell used Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant in a safety package much of last season as a way to improve pass coverage while not losing anything against the run. But when the Giants failed to re-sign Grant, Fewell was ready to drop his three-safety defense.
With Phillips sidelined by a knee injury, Brown has emerged as a playmaker over the last month, snaring four of his five interceptions. And Fewell has no plans to take him out of the lineup Sunday when the Giants (6-2) play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3).
"We’ll find a way," Fewell said when asked if all of his safeties would play. "All of them are good players and that’s a good problem to have. Kenny is back."
Phillips hurt his knee against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sept. 30 and Brown has more than replaced him. The former Michigan product had two interceptions and a fumble recovery and was named the NFC defensive player of the week on Wednesday.
Fewell hesitated when asked if Phillips would get his starting job back. Normally injuries don’t cause a player to lose his spot. However, the ball is just finding Brown these days and that spells turnovers.
"I think that Brown has been playing really well right
Fewell said that Brown’s play has forced him to start developing a situation where he can play three safeties. Again, that’s a good dilemma to have.
Brown has come out of nowhere. He played in Oakland in 2010 and with Indianapolis in 2011 before signing with New York as a free agent. Fewell said the 25-year-old caught his eye in the spring when he showed he could cover ground and catch the ball.
Despite a so-so training camp, Brown made the team and his game took off after an interception against Carolina in Week 3.
"I definitely felt I had it in me," Brown said Thursday after practice. "I have always had confidence in my ability and I would tell anybody that any day of the week. It’s not so much surprising to me. I just like I have been able to play. I had an opportunity given me and I am just trying to capitalize on it."
It’s not surprising that opponents have targeted Brown instead of the veteran presence that Rolle exudes. However, Brown has made them pay for that mistake. After practicing on a limited basis Thursday, Phillips said he was ready to play on Sunday against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, adding to the depth.
"They’re a great offense. They’re fast. All of their receivers can run. So I’ve definitely got to be confident," Phillips said of the Steelers. "I can’t go out there if I don’t feel confident in my knee and that’s not what I’m going to do."