When he's able to make it onto the field, Kenny Phillips is one of the NFL's most talented and productive safeties. The guy can flat-out play and has game-changing skills. That's why I don't blame the Philadelphia Eagles for taking out a low-risk investment on him this offseason.
Unfortunately, though, we continue to see signs that Phillips simply can't stay on the field. Knee injuries plagued him for almost his entire time with the New York Giants, which is why Big Blue let him walk in the offseason and he was only able to secure a one-year, prove-it deal with the safety-hungry Eagles.
Those knee problems kept Phillips on the sideline for large chunks of organized team activities during the spring, and now a quad injury is holding the 26-year-old back. He reaggravated that injury less than an hour after returning to practice on Wednesday, according to NJ.com, and now you have to wonder if his roster spot is in peril.
I still don't believe it should be.
The 2008 first-round pick has missed large chunks of two of the last four seasons due to left knee surgery (2009) and an MCL sprain in his right knee (2012), so this would be new. But an injury is an injury, and it adds to the perception that Phillips just doesn't have the durability to become the reliable star many thought he'd be a few years ago.
If anyone believed in the guy, he'd have received a contract this offseason with at least some guaranteed money.
The Eagles are still thin in the secondary, though, and let's keep in mind that the key for Phillips is only to prove that he can stay relatively healthy. For $2 million, that's the bar to hit. He doesn't really have to prove he's got the skills.
“It does make it harder to evaluate when you get less looks at a guy,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said, according to the Delaware News Journal. “That goes without saying. But Kenny’s got a lot of tape out there. We’ll have a good feel for Kenny.”
It's a good sign that we're not talking about his knee. If it were the knee, I'd say this is the end of the road. But since it's unrelated, there's a chance this is just bad luck.
Opposite Patrick Chung, who should start at free safety, the Eagles are primarily using veteran disappointment Nate Allen and rookie Earl Wolff. The Eagles would probably prefer not to rely on Allen again this season, and while Wolff has excelled this summer, he's still a rookie who was picked 136th overall in April.
Kurt Coleman, Rob Sims and Colt Anderson aren't ideal starting options either, so they'll need Phillips for support.
Keep in mind that while he played in only seven games last year, Phillips was still deemed by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) to be the second-best defensive player on the Giants roster. He's a jack of all trades who is a strong cover man, run defender and pass-rusher. That's something Philly can't afford to give up on this early.