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The rise of Jordan Phillips with the Buffalo Bills

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With the Bills needing more from their defensive line, Phillips has stepped up his game

When the Buffalo Bills drafted talented defensive tackle Ed Oliver with the No. 9 overall pick in this April’s NFL Draft, Jordan Phillips knew he was on notice, and that the pressure was on to perform.

Phillips, who signed a one-year deal with the Bills in March after spending the final 12 games of 2018 with the team, has been a fan favorite for much of his two seasons in Western New York. He can often be seen encouraging the fans and his teammates to get loud and pumped up for the team, especially on critical third-down plays.

But while Phillips has been great at being a passionate teammate, his on-field performance wasn’t matching his enthusiasm—until Week 5 of the 2019 season.

Phillips, who entered Buffalo’s road clash against the Tennessee Titans with 5.5 career sacks to his name in 48 career games, erupted for a career-high three sacks of quarterback Marcus Mariota to spark the Bills to a 4-1 record for the first time since the 2011 season.

Believe it or not, it was his first three-sack game at any level of organized football—Pop Warner, high school, college or the NFL. Phillips has openly admitted that he has used the lack of recognition as motivation for his play.

“I’ve been motivated all year,” said Phillips, who tweeted that the league is going to have to respect him sooner or later following a Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots. “I’ve been under the radar for some reason all year.”

Against the Titans, Phillips became the first member of the Bills to amass three sacks since Lorenzo Alexander had three during a 30-19 road win over the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 9, 2016. Phillips also became the first Bill with three sacks in a half since Mario Williams in a 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 15, 2013.

With fellow defensive tackle Harrison Phillips out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL during the Week 3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Phillips’s arrival as a pass rusher has been a much-needed boost to Leslie Frazier’s defense.

In five games, Phillips has a career-best four sacks and six quarterback hits to go with ten tackles (six for a loss) while appearing in 38 percent of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. Phillips has also contributed on special teams.

“It’s great to see Jordan come out and play like he played against Tennessee and he’s, he’s been pretty consistent for us throughout the season,” Frazier said of Phillips this week, who leads the Bills in sacks. “Even going back to when we acquired him (after Miami released him). When you use the word dynamic, I smiled in my heart because he sees himself as a dynamic player and I’m always giving him a hard time about that part of things. It was big for us the way he played against the Titans. We’re going to need that going forward. He’s one of those guys who has a ton of ability. If he can consistently give us what we saw in that ballgame, that’ll be really good for our defense. Anytime your interior linemen can dominate the way he did, it just makes the rest of the defense that much better.”

Phillips will look to extend his recent run of dominance on Sunday, when his former team, the winless Miami Dolphins (0-5), come to New Era Field for a 1 p.m. clash with the Bills.

Phillips, Miami’s second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma, was unhappy with the direction the Dolphins were heading last October, so he asked for his release from the team. Miami granted Phillips his release on Oct. 2, 2018, with the Dolphins languishing amid an 0-5 record. Buffalo scooped him up a day later.

While Phillips told Jason Wolf of The Buffalo News that he’s still the same player he was in South Beach, the talented defensive tackle has rejuvenated his career in Western New York.

“I bet on myself and now I’m here and I couldn’t be happier,” Phillips said. “When you hear about Buffalo, you’re not excited to come here. But once you get here, I couldn’t be happier.”