The Buffalo Bills have built layers of quality depth along their defensive line. Whether it’s adding stud pass rushers on the outside or acquiring run-stuffing gap-pluggers in the middle, Buffalo has put together an enviable group of talent in the trenches.
In an ideal world, the team would just let the best players suit up each week without any worry about things like injuries. However, after a 2022 season where all we seemed to hear about with the Bills involved injuries, we know that’s not the case.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one of Buffalo’s top defensive tackles — a fan favorite with a long injury history.
Name: Jordan Phillips
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 341 pounds
Age: 30 (31 on 9/21/2023)
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 3/17/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Phillips re-upped with the Bills in April, extending his second stint with the team. He signed a one-year contract worth a total of $3 million, of which $1.22 million is guaranteed. That guarantee represents the dead-cap number Buffalo will carry if they trade or release him, and his cap number if he makes the roster is $2.86 million.
2022 Recap: Phillips had a great start to his second stint with the Bills, notching four tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, and three quarterback hits in Buffalo’s season-opening victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Phillips had two tackles the following week against the Tennessee Titans, but he injured his hamstring in the third quarter when he tried to provide blocking support for Matt Milano on an interception. Milano ultimately returned that pick for a touchdown, but Phillips missed the next two games. He never was quite the same after that, as he finished the year with 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, two pass knockdowns, and those 1.5 sacks he had on Matthew Stafford in Week 1. Phillips missed two games later in the season with a shoulder injury. That turned out to be a torn rotator cuff, which Phillips had surgically repaired in the offseason. That surgery led him to start training camp on the PUP list this year.
Positional outlook: Phillips is one of nine defensive tackles on the current roster. The other eight are Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, Poona Ford, DJ Dale, Eli Ankou, Cortez Broughton, and Kendal Vickers.
2023 Offseason: Phillips is off the PUP list and participating in camp practice, albeit in a limited fashion. He’s listed as Ed Oliver’s direct backup on the first depth chart of the offseason.
2023 Season outlook: Phillips checks an awful lot of the boxes in terms of the kind of player we want on the Bills. He’s fiery, he dominates in stretches, he’s content in a heavy rotation, and he loves being in Buffalo. The biggest problem with Phillips, whether it’s been with the Bills or the Dolphins or the Arizona Cardinals, is his penchant for missing time due to injury. Phillips had issues with his hamstrings in Arizona, and for a defensive lineman to have leg issues is extremely limiting in terms of their ability to anchor, not to mention the burst it saps. In a perfect world, Phillips is a roster lock given everything he does for the team when he’s healthy combined with how great a dude he is for the locker room. However, in a positional group loaded with talent, the coaching staff may have to make a tough choice by picking one of those other abilities — availability — in cutting the group down to size.
I can’t see them keeping five defensive tackles given the talent at edge rusher, where the team is going to be hard-pressed to cut down to five from six if Von Miller is healthy. Initially, I thought the battle would be between Phillips and Settle for that last spot, but I’m starting to wonder just how safe Poona Ford’s spot on the roster is, as well. The preseason is going to determine who stays and who goes, with just Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones locks to make the 53-man roster. Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts gives us our first glance at the coaching staff’s rotations, but the back end of the defensive tackle group is an undercover battleground for the Bills this summer.