As my friend Mikey has pointed out, Kenny Phillips' rehab from microfracture left knee surgery seems to be going along smoothly. But how a doctor and a defensive coordinator define smooth may be very different.
Put it this way. Phillips may well be coming along fine. But he hasn't started running yet. And even if he starts on his target date of March 29, six months out from the operation, there's no telling how much he'll be able to do, or whether he'll do it as well as he did before the surgery. You must remember that this microfracture stuff, though it's becoming common, is still a long rehab. Look what it did to Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, who were not the same this year after similar operations.
What we're saying here is that one should not count on Phillips to return to full strength this coming season. If he does, so much the better. But Jerry Reese would do well to take a very close look at the available free agent talent there, if only to improve the depth over a position that relied on folks like C.C. Brown, Aaron Rouse, and a transplanted Aaron Ross after Phillips went down.
Here's a look at what might be available once the free agent gun sounds on March 5.
DARREN SHARPER: This guy has absolutely tormented Eli Manning, so it might be a case of picking him up to remove a major irritant to Manning's future. The first-year Saint is 34 years old, and could never be looked upon as more than a short-term solution despite nine picks, three of which came back for touchdowns, this year. But wouldn't you love to have his leadership and skills back there, even if just for a single season while a draft pick develops? Send Michael Johnson to the bench, stick Sharper right next to Phillips, and turn him loose in centerfield.
NICK COLLINS: This Packer is regarded as one of the top five safeties in the game, right up there with Sharper and Ed Reed. His astounding speed allows him to make up for his mistakes, and he'd probably fit in very well with Perry Fewell's Tampa-2 looks. He picked off six passes, and also plays the run, which could relieve Phillips of some punishment. But he'll need a new CBA to come free, and even at that Green Bay will probably re-sign the 27-year-old.
O.J. ATOGWE: The Rams' most consistent safety wound up on the IR with a shoulder injury, but he might be worth a shot. At 29, he's a strong tackler who could allow Phillips to concentrate more on coverage. He won't come free unless there's a new CBA.
GEORGE WILSON: Of all the safeties in the league, this 28-year-0ld Bill probably has the best shot of landing with the Giants. He's a big fan of Fewell and his aggressive schemes, and Fewell seems a big fan of his. Wilson, a restricted player absent a CBA, finished second on the Bills with four of their league second-best 28 interceptions, and was also second on the team with 103 tackles.
ATARI BIGBY: Another resticted guy, this 28-year-old Packer had four interceptions, 12 breakups, and proved a strong complement to Collins. He's a hard hitter in run support who had 54 tackles last year, and has enough range in coverage to transition from strong to weakside safety.
GERALD SENSABAUGH: The 27-year-old Cowboy showed toughness this year, and is also known as a strong special teams guy. He wound up on the strong side, replacing Roy "Horse Collar" Williams, and is mostly a run-stopper. The same can be said of a couple of other highly-regarded safeties like the Texans' Bernard Pollard, the Saints' Roman Harper, and the Colts' Antoine Bethea. The Giants would be better served signing a coverage safety, since that is probably where Phillips' weakness in a still-healing knee would probably suffer.
Any other ideas?