It’s been a tendency and a big topic of discussion over the past three years in regards to the fact that Joe Philbin doesn’t play rookies if he doesn’t have to. Instead, he prefers to develop them on special teams before throwing them into action on the field. While some may agree with his approach, others may disagree.
Earlier this week, Philbin updated us on the development of two key pieces to the future of the team – Walt Aikens and Jordan Tripp. More specifically, Philbin said that the development of Aikens at the safety position will help in the long run.
“In the big-picture, it certainly does. Maybe in the short-term it’s not a huge asset, but I think in the big picture (it helps), and we plan on him being here for a long time, I think it’s good for him. I just think he’s showed up. One of the things you look for as a rookie, let’s say he starts out and gets most of his snaps on special teams, is that you look for production there first. That’s usually a decent indicator that, in time when you move to the defensive side of the ball in this case, there will be production there as well. The thing I like is that we see him getting better as a special teams player, and the opportunities that he has had on defense, he’s starting to seem to play faster, fit in the scheme better and look a little bit more decisive. I think those are all good indicators.”
Tripp, who did a lot of good things in preseason, has been coming along nicely, according to Philbin.
“It’s a little bit of the same thing with (Walt Aikens). He’s getting his feet wet on special teams. We’ve seen some progress there. He hasn’t really had the opportunities to play linebacker necessarily, not that Walt has played a ton but he’s played more football. We like the way (Tripp) prepares, the way he practices. There are some good signs there.”
Those two players, along with many others, have helped stabilize special teams and Philbin noted that he is happy about the progress they have made in that area.
“I like the progress we have made in that area. I do think our specialists, I think Brandon (Fields), for a while now, kind of seems to be getting back to his old self and really has been productive. I think Caleb (Sturgis) has done a good job as well. I like the direction that unit is heading.”
While we don’t see them in the primary action on game day, they are still playing a big part in the third and often forgotten phase of the game – special teams. Let’s hope they continue to develop so they can make a major impact on the field in their second season.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs