The Buffalo Bills have constantly retooled their defensive line over the last few years, as head coach Sean McDermott, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, and general manager Brandon Beane have all tried to find the right combination up front. If this Bills group had its way, they would be able to play coverage in the back with just a four-man rush influencing the quarterback. Perhaps that’s every defensive guru’s wish, but Wade Phillips and Steve Spagnuolo would like a word if that’s your contention.
When we think of pass rushers, it’s often the defensive ends who come to mind first. However, the Bills clearly prioritize the pass rush from the defensive tackle spots, as well. That will happen when you try (and fail) to fend off Tom Brady for the better part of two decades. There’s nothing a quarterback hates more than a 320-lb defensive tackle blowing through the line right in his face.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss a defensive tackle who had his best days as a pass-rusher when he was with the Bills. Can the reboot be as successful as the original?
Name: Jordan Phillips
Height/Weight: 6’6” 330 lbs
Age: 29 (30 on 9/21/2022)
Acquired: Signed with Bills as UFA on 3/17/2022
Financial situation (per Over the Cap): Phillips signed a one-year deal worth a total of $5 million this offseason. He carries a cap hit of $3,514,706 for the season. Of that $5 million, $4.225 million is fully guaranteed.
2021 Recap: Phillips underwhelmed in his second season with the Arizona Cardinals. Part of that was due to injuries, as he played in just nine games in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Last year, he missed time due to COVID-19 and an “undisclosed injury,” which led him to start the year on injured reserve. He ended up playing exactly half of Arizona’s defensive snaps in 2021, totaling 22 tackles, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, three sacks, and two pass knockdowns.
Positional outlook: Phillips rejoins a defensive tackle group that looks very different from when he was here last. Ed Oliver remains, but DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle have replaced Star Lotulelei and Harrison Phillips. Eli Ankou, Brandin Bryant, C.J. Brewer, and Prince Emili round out the group.
2022 Offseason: Phillips is healthy and ready to roll. He attended voluntary OTAs and should be ready for training camp.
2022 Season outlook: Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Phillips should find himself among the top four defensive tackles once camp breaks. While his body type suggests that he’d be best served as a “1-tech” defensive tackle who occupies two gaps at a time, he’s actually been best when used as a “3-tech” who shoots one gap and wreaks havoc in the backfield. His versatility allows Frazier and McDermott to use him in both roles, however, so he’ll be a great backup to Oliver and Jones. If he can stay healthy and be half as productive as he was in his last year in Buffalo, where he racked up 31 tackles, 16 quarterback hits, and 9.5 sacks in 2019, he’ll be a huge upgrade to the defensive line.
To paraphrase one of my favorite TV characters, Sophia from Golden Girls: Picture this...a defensive line that has Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, and Von Miller coming after the quarterback on third down. That’s a quality line right there, and that doesn’t even include someone (Boogie Basham) who I think is primed for a huge breakout. In any case, Buffalo is loaded up front, and Phillips gives them versatility, motor, and ability that they were missing last year. If he stays healthy, this is going to be a great reunion.