In the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. The Dolphins weren’t pleased with Phillips’s production and when he was waived after four games in the 2018 season, he made sure everyone knew the feelings were mutual. Phillips penned a candid Instagram post containing quotes such as “Free at last” and “I couldn’t be happier to be out of there.” A change of scenery seemed to help, with Phillips quickly gaining a reputation for his energy and enthusiasm in Buffalo. A steady rotational player, Phillips was often seen pumping up the crowd between plays. That’s all great news, but does his talent match his newfound zeal in Western New York and the Buffalo Bills?
Jordan Phillips is matched up with Anthony Castonzo as they fight for position heading sideways. Phillips has Jordan Poyer to his right to clog that lane and should look to shut down the gap to his left side. He’s not fast enough to flank Castonzo and not strong enough to drive Castonzo back. Castonzo gets a good push and while Phillips makes the tackle it’s a nine-yard gain.
This isn’t to insinuate Phillips is weak by any means. He’s losing ground, but the quality of competition on this double team is through the roof. Anthony Costanzo releases from the block and Phillips twists and takes Quenton Nelson to the ground. Phillips shows flashes of power like this, just not enough to claim more snaps on defense.
Like Star Lotulelei (who Phillips backs up), there isn’t a good statistic to tell you how he’s doing overall. Aside from the very unofficial metric “Thumbs up from Skare” Phillips’s role is invisible in the box score for this play. Without him, Braden Smith is there to do something about Tremaine Edmunds and Marlon Mack can scoot in for a short gain or maybe even a touchdown. Instead, Smith is delayed, Tremaine Edmunds shoots in and Mack has to bounce outside where Phillip Gaines tackles Mack for a loss of two.
Whereas the first couple plays show Jordan Phillips getting pushed around a bit and then pushing someone else around a little bit, this play is more typical of Phillips’s play. He’s winning the one-on-one—but slowly. The good news is that he’s still there to plug gaps, however he’s unlikely to generate consistent interior pressure. Phillips shows good awareness, though, and ditches the block when he see the pass coming. As he’s no longer tied up, he’s in excellent shape to time a leap that nearly deflects the ball.
This is a good victory for Phillips, getting Quenton Nelson to give ground. Like above, there’s no way Phillips is hitting home before Andrew Luck gets rid of the ball. Not straight through Nelson anyway. Phillips skirts around pretty well for a player around 340 lbs. Nelson twists Phillips to the ground, but it’s likely Luck gets the ball away regardless.
Phillips takes another double team, which frees up Eddie Yarbrough to shoot in. Before Yarbrough can make the tackle, though, Phillips knifes in between the offensive linemen and makes the hit himself. This is some nice maneuvering in heavy traffic for Phillips. He doesn’t make a ton of splash plays, but he’s not someone that should be counted out.
Here’s an even better version of how Phillips tries to disrupt passing lanes. The shove here is much more effective against an opponent who isn’t quite the caliber of a Quenton Nelson. The quick step back and jump is perfectly timed. Phillips usually reached playing time percentages in the 30s, never seeing massive amounts of time on the field. In 2018, Phillips recorded four defended passes.
That doesn’t sound impressive but it places him in a tie for 12th place in the league among all defensive linemen. Many of the players ahead of him on the list are not backups, such as Cameron Jordan, Carlos Dunlap and Akiem Hicks. No defensive lineman had more than eight passes defended.
And if we filter out defensive ends, the only defensive tackle with more passes defended is Chris Wormley. Ndamukong Suh and Stephon Tuitt tied Jordan Phillips with four. All three of these players are about 40 lbs lighter than Phillips. This is not an anomaly either, as Phillips has never had fewer than three in his four year career, despite never establishing himself as a starter.
Jordan Phillips turned out to be a productive in-season find and valuable backup for Star Lotulelei. While he’s not prone to bowling people over, he can occupy a couple lineman and free up others to get the glory stats. In addition, he seems to have a knack for tipping the ball at the line. While that shouldn’t be a primary consideration for a defensive tackle, it’s a nice bonus skill. Phillips clicks in Buffalo and does an adequate to great job with his current role on the team. Unless the defensive scheme/game plan changes drastically, Phillips should be a player the Bills look to keep.