The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis in just 4 days. I will be there and in between now and then I’ll be doing a lot of work getting up to speed on the draft class of 2015. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.
What they’re saying:
What I liked: Well, we start with the size. At that height and weight, he is just not a player you would see line up at nose tackle (0 tech) right over the center in most traditional spots. He moves well enough laterally and forward to cause some issues in the gaps and can certainly demand double team attention to keep him from ripping into the backfield. He spins pretty well and also feeds off stunts because the off-center opportunities are seized and he is quick to pop through and make a play against Tennessee.
What I did not like: He just doesn’t move a whole lot on most plays. In fact, some plays he doesn’t move at all. Against TCU, his battle with Horned Frogs center Joey Hunt was a real disappointing performance where he was single-teamed a lot and did not cause any real disruptive plays all day. As the season went along, he was on the ground a bit too much making you wonder if he was at full health as his best football was in September for sure. For me, I want to know about the production issues.
—Bob Strum, Dallas Morning News
How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have been using the undersized Barry Cofield at nose tackle since 2011. Cofield is about to turn 31, he has a high cap number and although he may survive this season his replacement needs to be found sooner rather than later. Phillips could be the player to do it.
“Big guys win” according to GM Scot McCloughan and at 6-6, 334 Phillips qualifies. But he’s not just a big body; he has the ability to use his size to great advantage with his quickness. He could at least contribute early if not become the full-time starter by midseason.
Potential issues: As Strum and others have noted, Phillips’ motor is not always running. It may be due to him being a year removed from a back injury that caused him to take a medical redshirt in 2013. Or it could be a case of him being like a lot of big players who just can’t generate the energy to keep their large mass in constant motion. In either case, Scot McCloughan has some investigating to do. The back issues will be examined by doctors in Indianapolis and then again if he is invited to Redskins Park for a visit. McCloughan will talk to a number of coaches, trainers and others in Phillips’ circle about his motivation.
His technique is flawed but that is normal for college players who can physically dominate the player lined up across from them. Coachability will be another aspect of his game that McCloughan will look in to.
As it stands now, the Redskins are not in a good draft spot to land Phillips. Right now it looks like his value is in the latter half of the first round, somewhere in the 20’s. He won’t be the right guy to take with the fifth pick and he could well be gone by the time Washington is up in the second round.
Bottom line: The demand for large, quick nose tackles always exceeds the supply. Phillips and Danny Shelton of Washington are the only two in this draft who are better than long-term projects. That may cause teams to overlook Phillips’ flaws and take a shot that he can hold down the middle.
Perhaps if the Redskins trade back to later in the first round they will take a good look at Phillips. If he is still on the board when the Redskins’ second-round pick rolls around, he may be too much of a value to pass up if his intangibles check out to McCloughan’s standards.
Previously in Combine Countdown: