The Buffalo Bills have few spots along the roster that appear to be more set than the defensive tackle position. After losing the unit’s leader, Kyle Williams, when the veteran retired following the 2018 season, the Bills added only one player—ninth overall pick Ed Oliver, to what was already a pretty solid positional grouping.
With a focus on heavy rotation a hallmark of Sean McDermott’s defensive-line usage, depth along the front lines is essential. The Bills have invested heavily in the interior defensive line, spending a total of two top-96 picks and $20.3 million against the 2019 salary cap on the top-four defensive tackles on the roster. The hope is that a strong middle will help not only against the run, but it will prevent quarterbacks from stepping up in the pocket when those stout interior defenders push the pocket.
In our latest edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we examine a player acquired last season from a divisional rival—someone who had worn out his welcome on South Beach, but fit right in when he came to Orchard Park.
Name: Jordan Phillips
Height/Weight: 6’6” 341 lbs.
Age: 26 (27 on 9/21/19)
Acquired: Claimed off waivers from Miami on 10/3/18
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Phillips parlayed a strong twelve-game slate with the Bills into a one-year contract worth $4.5 million for the 2019 season. That number represents the cap hit Phillips carries for the year, as well. If the Bills release him prior to the start of the regular season, he will count $2 million in dead money for the year.
2018 Recap: Phillips had a tumultuous year, as he began his fourth NFL season with the team that drafted him, the Dolphins, but in a greatly reduced role. He only played as a rotational player rather than as a starter, and after a sideline outburst related to a reduction in playing time in Miami’s Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots, the Dolphins waived him. Buffalo claimed him, and he immediately worked his way into the rotation, appearing on 32% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps in their 13-12 win over the Tennessee Titans on October 7. With Miami, Phillips had five tackles, one sack, and one pass deflection in four games; with Buffalo, Phillips had 19 tackles and three pass deflections in 12 games. He also recovered a fumble in Buffalo’s season finale, a 41-17 thrashing of the Dolphins.
Positional outlook: Phillips enters the season clearly among the team’s top-four defensive tackles, with Star Lotulelei, Ed Oliver, and Harrison Phillips rounding out the top portion of the group. Robert Thomas, who was released last season to make room for Phillips on Buffalo’s roster, Kyle Peko, and L.T. Walton are Buffalo’s other defensive tackles.
2019 Offseason: Phillips has participated in all offseason activities to date, and he has been the primary starter next to Lotulelei on defense.
2019 Season outlook: While it’s unlikely that the Bills will start Phillips when the real games begin, it’s nice to know that they have a competent filler in Phillips if Oliver cannot immediately make an impact in the pros. Phillips should be a disruptive force for the Bills in the middle, and his high-energy style fits perfectly within the group. He is a perfect player for McDermott’s defense.