Given the way Stevie Brown crumpled to the turf Saturday night after picking off a Geno Smith pass, the Giants knew their starting safety might have suffered a serious injury. Those fears were confirmed Sunday. Brown tore his ACL in New York's third exhibition, a significant blow to a secondary that underachieved in 2012. Brown reportedly was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
Brown, a 2010 seventh-round pick by Oakland, came out of nowhere last season to claim a huge role on the Giants' defense. He picked off eight passes (second most in the NFL) and led the league with 307 INT-return yards. New York re-signed Brown as a restricted free agent this offseason and expected him to start again at safety, alongside Antrell Rolle.
The injury to Brown immediately looked serious. The 26-year-old safety fell, untouched, and grabbed for his left knee. He had to be helped off the field, then was taken to the locker room for further examination.
"A nice interception, something he has done extremely well, running the ball back after the interception and I don’t believe it was a contact issue," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said via conference call on Sunday. "It was just something that happened. I feel badly for him. He’s worked hard. He’s prepared himself well and been in a position where he’s made a lot of plays for us. We will definitely miss him. We continue, that’s what we do. "
The Giants finished 28th in passing yards allowed last season, at 254.5 per game. They failed to add much in the way of help this offseason either, instead relying on improvements from youngsters like Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley.
One pickup they did make was to sign ex-Steeler Ryan Munday to back up Brown. Mundy and Brown actually were teammates briefly at Michigan -- Brown's freshman season of 2006 was Mundy's last in Ann Arbor before he transferred to West Virginia. Now Mundy, two years Brown's senior, will step in as a starter.
Mundy filled that role for three games last season in Pittsburgh, en route to a career-high 39 tackles. He has never filled a full-time starting gig, though, so he may have his hands full in an NFC East division loaded with offensive talent.
The timing of Brown's injury may actually play to New York's benefit. It occurred less than 72 hours before the first round of cuts were due in the NFL and about a week before teams have to be down to 53 players. So a healthy number of safeties should become available in the coming days. Former Giant Kenny Phillips, who has struggled with knee injuries of his own, is one of those players available. Phillips, who was cut by Philadelphia Sunday, helped open the door for Brown last season by being unable to stay in the lineup.
Another option still floating on the market is veteran Kerry Rhodes, who was stellar in Arizona last season but has drawn very little interest this summer. Even if the Giants feel confident in Mundy, their sudden lack of depth could drive them to explore a few other options. It's hardly a bump in the road the Giants needed two weeks before the regular-season opener in Dallas.