At a glance, it’s easy to convince yourself that Jordan Phillips could be the next Akiem Hicks in the Vic Fangio defense. Both are gargantuan 330-plus pound athletes who have more than 10 sacks since 2015. Pass rush is always at a premium, and especially along the interior where it’s harder to find.
Dig a little deeper though, and there are plenty of reasons to be leery of this AFC East veteran.
What kind of contract could he get
It’s tough to say with complete certainty how the league’s 32 teams value Phillips. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s tough to find such large humans who can contribute against the pass and still eat gaps when teams are trying to run.
As teams have gotten smarter about quantifying production, though, most have caught on to outlier seasons. Phillips’ 9.5 sacks last year definitely catch your eye as it more than quadrupled his previous career high. Beyond that, he was getting home at a really, really high rate. According to PFF’s charting, the Buffalo Bill reached a quarterback on 10 of his 25 individual pass pressures in 2019.
That means he’s extremely unlikely to put up this kind of sack production again.
Why the Broncos should attempt to sign him
Even before you consider the fact that Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe are free agents, there’s a noticeable lack of girth along Fangio’s line compared to his time with the Bears. In fact, if Phillips entered camp at his listed weight, he’d be the heaviest player on the roster.
It goes beyond that though. While his long speed isn’t going to blow you away, he has some noticeable short area quickness that Buffalo used to attack gaps away from where he lined up pre-snap a number of times. He also has long arms and the strength to control his opponents.
In the games I looked through, Leslie Frazier used Phillips all over the Bills’ interior line. He’s capable of playing snaps from the 5T all the way down to nose. Most of the snaps came as a 1 or 3 technique in Buffalo’s nickel packages.
When tasked with shooting a gap, he shows a solid burst off the snap. He’s effective at drawing two blockers and could be an effective gap plugger for the Broncos’ defense. There are instances where he shows the wherewithal to use his height to his advantage with a swim move. He also has some power in his game and isn’t afraid to use his size to his advantage with a bull rush. There are times he uses his long arms to keep himself clean as a rusher, which is promising.
Forklift bull-rush for the high-quality sack from Jordan Phillips vs. Martin. Phillips is playing the best I've ever seen from him this season. pic.twitter.com/NK1ZVLfOY2— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 5, 2019
Why the Broncos shouldn’t attempt to sign him
Eight of Phillips’ 9.5 sacks in 2019 came against the bottom tier offenses of the league. When your best performances are against teams like the Cincinnatti Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans, it’s fair to receive a little extra scrutiny.
I went into the games I watched expecting Phillips to be a reliable player against double teams more consistently than he was. On his best days he’s solid to good here, such as the Cowboys’ game on Thanksgiving. I also thought he’d do a better job of using his length and burst, but too often he lets an opponent get into his chest. He doesn’t show much as a pass rusher if his first move doesn’t win the day.
Given that he’s coming off a career year as a pass rusher, he’s almost surely going to make more on his 2019 production than what he’ll provide in 2020. Mike Purcell and Zach Kerr are just recent examples of how rotational players aren’t that hard to find, so cost is worth considering.
Phillips represents a decent scheme fit and versatile lineman for Fangio to play across both his base and nickel formations. He has some tools that you just can’t teach and will enter next season in his athletic prime. There are reasons to believe his best football is ahead of him.
However, I do believe he over-performed in a couple areas last season - most notably as a pass rusher. I think he’s adequate in this regard, but it only takes one team to blow up the market. I wonder if Phillips’ raw stats will sucker a team into grabbing him in hopes of replicating his absurd 2019 sack rate.
If the Broncos can get Jordan Phillips at the kind of salary you typically pay a rotation piece along the defensive line, I like this move. He played 543 defensive snaps last year and logged as much as 71% of the team’s snaps in the Browns game.
How much should the Broncos’ offer Jordan Phillips?
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