By: Tanner Elliott
The Miami Dolphins went into this offseason knowing they needed pass rush help. Obviously trading away Shaq Lawson exacerbated this problem, but it seems that Miami always has some tricks up their sleeve. Miami didn’t address their pass rusher need until the draft, when they drafted Jaelan Phillips 18th overall. Phillips is a very versatile player, and here we break down how he fits in Miami.
Phillips best fit is to take over Kyle Van Noy's role, but I think multiple players take over his role as a whole, just not one player. The reason why I think Phillips could take over KVN’s role is because he has experience both playing with his hand in the dirt and standing up. That being said, here we take a look at how Phillips plays the run, pass, and what to expect him doing in his rookie year.
Phillips is known for his pass rushing skills, but he still is a decent run player. At UCLA, he played as an outside linebacker who was designated as an edge player. On film there were times Phillips would have to set the edge, which is something Miami desperately needs. Not only was Phillips very successful in setting the edge, but he was also disciplined enough not to over or under set the edge. In addition to that, Phillips was seen playing read options perfectly as he would play his role (stopping the quarterback), but also wouldn’t allow the running back to bounce outside if he had to. Phillips would also set the edge on run plays, which is something that Miami has been missing for quite some time. There were very few times where opposing running backs would get a huge chunk of yardage when trying to run outside on Phillips’s side. He made sure that no one got past him, or he would force the running back to redirect and go inside or hesitate in the backfield.
We all know that the reason Phillips was drafted to Miami was to rush the passer. As we saw last year at Miami, Phillips is capable of being a team's top pass rusher. He really had his breakout year pass-rush wise last year, when he tallied eight sacks. He has a very impressive swim move that he can use instantly on day one. As we have seen, Phillips has bulked up quite a lot recently, which will help him tremendously in the NFL. Adding what seems to be 15-20 pounds of muscle will allow Phillips to bull rush, which is something Brian Flores loves to do. Of course, it may take time for Phillips to adjust to the NFL and get the hang of Miami’s pass rushing techniques and schemes, as well as NFL offensive line techniques and schemes, but expect Phillips to be a big contributor in the pass defense this year.
Fit in Miami
Obviously, head coach Brian Flores has a plan for Phillips, but the question is: What type of plan? Given his elite athleticism, willingness to play anywhere, and familiarity with different systems, he’s a very interesting chess piece for Flores to move around. As I said above, I expect Phillips to be the lead guy taking over KVN’s role, but there's plenty of other responsibilities you can expect Phillips to have. PhinManiacs’ own Hussam Patel has called Phillips the potential “Josh Allen Kryptonite,” as he hopes Phillips puts an end to Allen’s ridiculous tear on Miami.
As of right now, from pictures and tweets, Phillips seems to be playing the position he did at UCLA, which is good news for Dolphins fans. Having Phillips in this position will force running backs to bounce back into the meat of the defense, so Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, and Benardrick McKinney will get a ton of tackles. Teams with mobile quarterbacks may have a harder time moving in the pocket due to Phillips’s athleticism, and may cause them to throw a rushed ball or out of bounds. That being said, the reason why Phillips is here is to boost the pass rush, so players like Emmanuel Ogbah, AVG, and Vince Biegel don’t get as much attention from offensive lines.
Expect to see a much-improved run defense and pass rush in 2021 if Phillips is able to play to the ability we all know he can reach.