Potential and high ceiling were the key words used when the Miami Dolphins drafted defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft, and those flashes have been apparent in the two years he's played.
But the main criticism regarding Phillips has been his motor, or his effort levels on the field. This too - unfortunately - has flashed on the field about as often as his big plays, leaving his overall play the same as his self-admitted motor: hot and cold.
"How do I phrase it? It was just the hot and cold motor you guys see every once in a while." Phillips said Tuesday. "(I’m) just (trying to find) tricks to keep it going – getting head strong. I’ve got to step up. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. It’s a big year for me. The team is looking for me to do what I need to do, so that’s what I’m here to do.”
It's telling that Phillips was willing to admit his motor hasn't always been running as well as it should. In the two years he's played at his previous effort level, Philips has made 42 tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven pass deflections and an interception. But given his potential, those are extremely underwhelming numbers.
That lack of effort led to coach Adam Gase taking drastic measures, and the 24-year old defensive lineman was benched in favor of other players.
That benching apparently resonated with Phillips.
"I’m just looking at myself in the mirror and what I need to do, and that’s be better." he said. "So that’s what I’m going to do.”
When did this soul searching begin?
“Probably when I got benched last year for those few games." Phillips said. "It just opened my eyes to ‘Hey, you’ve got to go in week-in and week-out and do what you need to do, otherwise, you’re going to be put on the bench and you’re not going to play.’”
Coach Gase has shown in the past that he has no qualms with benching players for not performing, as he did the same with veteran Byron Maxwell midway through the season. So now, with that knowledge in mind, Phillips is looking for ways to keep his motor running, and stop it from being hot and cold.
“There are a lot of variables that go into it." Phillips said. "Just technique-wise, stamina, knowing the schemes, knowing football in general. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve than I was a couple years back.”
Phillips has been training with Ndamukong Suh for the past couple of seasons, and he will once again be seen as the incumbent starter opposite the All-Pro DT. Hearing him acknowledge his motor struggles is encouraging, but it won't matter unless something changes on the field. That is what everyone will be watching in 2017.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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