Thanks to their promising pair of edge rushers and a more aggressive pressure scheme, the Broncos were able to generate a pass rush last season without Von Miller. Bradley Chubb made the Pro Bowl while Malik Reed finished with 31 individual pass pressures as Vic Fangio adjusted to life without his future Hall of Famer.
Going forward, there are a number of questions.
Chubb enters the last season of his rookie contract while questions remain about Miller’s long-term future with the Broncos. Reed is set to become a Restricted Free Agent in 2022 and 2020 seventh rounder Derrek Tuszka is the only other outside linebacker on the roster. There is little doubt the Broncos will look to add another edge defender to the roster in the NFL Draft.
After destroying his Pro Day, there’s no way the Broncos can ignore Jaelan Phillips.
Should he be the heir to Von Miller?
At a glance:
Jaelan Phillips combines very good burst with the kind of frame and power you’d expect from former number one recruit. Phillips combines very good bend with the pass rush repertoire and play strength to become one of the best complete edge rushers in the NFL. The biggest concern teams will need to check off on is the 21-year old’s medical history after he retired from football due to a number of significant injuries.
Jaelan Phillips is a DE prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.9 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 14 out of 1345 DE from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 29, 2021
Splits projected, times unofficial, updated with bench and corrected size.https://t.co/3YnkIqkMto #RAS pic.twitter.com/46v59d5MOH
Why he fits the Broncos
- Phillips is a well built 266 lbs. with balance, flexibility, and twitch to play standing up or from a 3-point stance. In 2020 he rushed from a 3-point stance only 46% of the time. His last season at UCLA was just 1%. Coming out of high school he was the second ranked weakside defensive end by Rivals and the best outside linebacker by ESPN.
- Elite athlete with very good agility, quickness, and explosiveness.
- Very good competitive toughness who’s motor runs hot.
- Good play strength and very good bend to play through a man or work his way around the arc.
- Good burst and will try to jump the snap, keying both movement and cadence.
- Very good run defender who is good at the point of attack and using his leverage to help teammates, good at stacking and meeting a puller, and is a threat to chase plays down from backside.
- While he needs to continue to hone and master each one as well as develop a real counter, Phillips has utilized a long arm, rip, bull, and spin. His willingness to dabble as well as his athletic tools should provide a coaching staff a ton to work with.
- While far better moving forward than dropping in space, Phillips isn’t a fish out of water if asked to drop into the flats.
- Could become a weapon on stunts as he’s combines the strength to play penetrator and the lateral mobility to wreak havoc as a looper.
Jaelan Phillips (15) length is a bit of a blessing and a curse, but he's very intriguing.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 9, 2021
+ Good burst
+ Comfortable in space
+ Wins inside and bending the edge + games
+ Very good run defender both at POA & in pursuit
+ Variety of rush moves including rip, long arm, bull, spin pic.twitter.com/2p3xC0Bjb8
Reasons for concern
- Time at UCLA marred by injuries. He retired from football in 2018 due to severe injuries to his left wrist, both ankles, and multiple concussions.
- Following retirement, Phillips left UCLA for Los Angeles Community College where he studied music.
- Vast majority of his snaps came against right tackles.
- Notably low pressure % compared to other top 2021 edge prospects. Hasn’t unlocked the tools as a pass rusher yet.
- His willingness to try different rush moves is encouraging, but he needs to figure out how to win with his hands including how to set up and beat an opponent.
- Pad level could be an issue for him as he’ll get caught playing tall.
- I do wonder if his ceiling is higher in a 4-3 defense where he’ll rush from a three point stance fulltime.
- He’s closer to Bradley Chubb than Von Miller in playing style and stature.
I REALLY hope the medicals are good for Jaelan Phillips because he is a complete stud.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 29, 2021
Should be a top-12 pick, if healthy.
What I’ve seen/heard/read
- Per Sports Info Solutions charting: Phillips was responsible for 35 individual pressures, 22 hurries, 17 hits, eight sacks, and 14.5 tackles for a loss in 2020. He generated pressure on 13% of his snaps.
“Jaelan Phillips is a high level athlete who has the length and athleticism to be an immediate threat as a pass rusher, with the potential to become a high level player if he improves his instincts. He projects best as a 9-tech or 3-4 outside linebacker”
“Phillips is the prototypical SDE, with good length, strength, and ability to rush the passer and has the upside to be a high-level pass rusher if he can add moves to his toolbox”
Edge defender with plus physical attributes and a motor that keeps him working and attacking throughout the rep. Philips might have the combination of length and athleticism that would allow teams to look at him with a hand on the ground or standing depending on his weight. Adding play strength will be important so that he can stack it up when setting the edge as a run defender in the league. He’s a slippery-limbed pass rusher with good first-step quickness, which bodes well for his future rush success if he gets better with his hands and learns a go-to counter. He has a shot at becoming a solid future starter along the edge if his medicals pan out.
A balanced defender, Phillips is a playmaker against the run and pass, where his exciting blend of size, length, power, technique, and athleticism make him a challenge for offenses to neutralize. Phillips is a versatile player that has experience playing with his hand in the dirt on the edge, rushing from interior alignments, and playing in space in a standup role—which makes him a fit for all teams in the NFL. The areas of concern for Phillips entering the NFL are playing with better pad level, developing consistency with his hand technique, and becoming more consistent reducing his surface area while establishing a half-man relationship with his opponents as a pass rusher. Phillips has all the makings of an impact defender at the next level, although a large sample size of high-level production in college would have been preferred.
Former No. 1 recruit in the nation Jaelan Phillips explains his road to becoming a Miami Hurricane – The Athletic
“I had my first one when I was like 10 years old. Then when I got to UCLA, I think I had two diagnosed and one that was minor that I didn’t miss time for, but I was out for like a week. Their policy is if you have three and get to four, then you won’t play at all. They won’t clear you.
“Between that situation and getting hit by the car in January and breaking my wrist, I felt that was just the best decision for me. Once I had time to heal, though, I realized my body is still capable of things. So, I’m going to rock until the wheels come off.”
6 games of Jaelan Phillips done. Watched UAB, Clemson, VATECH, Duke, NCSU, UNC.— Zach (All-22 Addict) Gartin (@All22_Addict) March 26, 2021
+Great first step
+Good Hand Violence
+Speed to Power
+Learns and adjusts on the fly
+Has inside and outside moves
+Great Frame and Length
+Great Effort pic.twitter.com/UdyoFmxXsT
Before any team will consider Phillips their medical staff will need to clear him as the concussions, wrist, and ankles are significant risks. With that said he has the best combination of tools, tape, and upside in this class and presents as a strong Fangio fit.