The Buffalo Bills have placed a great emphasis on character and process during the tenure of current head coach Sean McDermott. There are certain players who we just know fit the Bills, so to speak, and those “processy” guys are found all over the roster.
When a team looks to make the jump from “rebuilding” to “contending,” however, sometimes those high-motor, high-character players who were once viewed as roster locks shift to the bubble. That’s not to say that character doesn’t matter—of course it does—but there comes a certain time where talent and results have to be the main basis for who stays and who goes.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile a player who is the very definition of a process guy—one who could remain as a rotational player or find himself looking elsewhere for work come September.
Name: Harrison Phillips
Height/Weight: 6’3” 307 lbs
Age: 25 (26 on 1/25/2022)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected by the Bills in the third round (No. 96 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft
Acquired: Third-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Phillips is in the final year of his rookie contract, a four-year pact that totals $3,342,042 overall. For the 2021 season, his salary cap hit is $1,143,760. If he’s released, the Bills are on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $193,760.
2020 Recap: Phillips played in 12 games, starting three, for the Bills last season. He made 18 tackles, forced one fumble, and had four quarterback hits. In terms of snaps played, Phillips was Buffalo’s fourth defensive tackle in the rotation behind Ed Oliver, Quinton Jefferson, and Vernon Butler.
Positional outlook: The defensive tackle group looks similar to last year’s crew, but the Bills released Jefferson and have Star Lotulelei returning from his COVID-19 opt-out. Oliver and Butler remain on the roster, as does Justin Zimmer. Brandin Bryant and Treyvon Hester round out the group.
2021 Offseason: Phillips has attended OTAs thus far and he is healthy.
2021 Season outlook: Given the depth at defensive end combined with the versatility of some of those defensive ends (namely rookies Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham, along with second-year man A.J. Epenesa), it’s almost a certainty that the Bills keep a maximum of four defensive tackles. If that’s the case, Phillips is fighting for that fourth and final spot, because Oliver, Lotulelei, and Butler are most likely the top three on the depth chart. Given that Phillips was less productive than Justin Zimmer was last season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that “Horrible Harry” has played his last snaps in Buffalo. Phillips is a bubble player this season, and he’ll need a strong preseason and training camp to prove that he belongs in Buffalo’s new-look defensive line.