Film Review: Adrian Phillips Can Be Impact Defender in More Ways Than One
Adrian Phillips is new to the New England Patriots, but he could quickly become an impact defender for the team.
In 2018, Phillips was an All-Pro special teams player, which speaks to how he can help improve an already elite special teams unit in New England that already includes players like Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, and Brandon King.
Phillips can also help on the defensive side of the ball. The Los Angeles Chargers used him as a linebacker and a deep safety. Phillips is a versatile player that can be used all over the formation, which makes him a valuable chess piece for defensive coordinators. Phillips was successful in his various roles during his time on the West Coast, and how Los Angeles used him can give us a sneak peek into how the Patriots will use him.
Let's get to the film.
Phillips' Ball Skills
Phillips, No. 31, is lined up over the left guard on this play and drops into coverage. Phillips does a good job of reacting to Josh Allen's eyes and is able to make a play on this ball to get the interception. The Chargers used Phillips as a linebacker in passing situations like this one to give their defense more speed and better coverage ability. Having a third safety on the field can make sure that your defense won't have a matchup problem such as a linebacker on a tight end or running back.
This pick-six was called back due to an offsides penalty on Joey Bosa, but this is still a very good play by Phillips. The Chargers double Tyreek Hill on this play with a safety over the top and Phillips underneath Hill. This creates a small window for Mahomes to hit. Mahomes ends up under-throwing this ball and Phillips is able to get the interception and return it all the way.
Phillips in Coverage
Phillips is back in the box and does a fantastic job at reading Baker Mayfield's eyes to break up this pass. Mayfield stares down his receiver here and Phillips is able to react off of that. Phillips is able to break up this pass and save a touchdown here. When he plays linebacker, Phillips is able to add speed and help take away routes that can abuse normal linebackers.
This is another great example of what Phillips brings against the pass. He is good in zone when he's able to read a quarterback and make a play. He has a great reaction to Baker shifting to the right side of the field and then he's able to break up the pass before it reaches David Njoku.
Phillips is also a physical player in coverage. On this play, he gets matched up 1-on-1 against Jared Cook on the outside. Cook attacks Phillips' outside and goes vertical. This helps Phillips, as he is able to use the sideline as if it were an extra defender. Derek Carr places this ball too far outside for Cook to bring it down inbounds, but Phillips also does a great job making sure it is impossible for Cook to make a play.
Phillips is physical on this play as well and breaks up this pass. Right when he sees the slant, he breaks on the route and gets right on the running back a second after the ball arrives. Phillips is able to get his hands on the ball and breaks up this pass. A play like this can be huge as it means the difference between a 3rd-and-10 or a 3rd-and-medium.
Phillips' timing on plays like this one is great. He is able to time when the ball arrives and break up this pass. Using Phillips at linebacker instead of a traditional linebacker can give the Patriots an advantage as Phillips is much better against the pass than most linebackers.
The Chargers had Phillips do this a lot in the games that I watched. Against routes that would go over the middle and against a teams best receiver, Los Angeles would have Phillips meet them over the middle and run with them. Here, Emmanuel Sanders is going over the middle and he's going up against Desmond King. Sanders is able to create separation versus King but Phillips comes down and covers the route.
This clip is a great example of Phillips in extended coverage. The pass rush doesn't get to Ben Roethlisberger on this play and that makes Phillips' job much harder. Phillips is able to stay with the tight end the entire time and does an awesome job breaking up this pass. This was a huge play as it came on 3rd-and-5 in the 4th quarter of a tied game. Plays like this can be game changers.
This is another good pass breakup by Phillips, this time against one of the best young tight ends in the NFL, Mark Andrews. Phillips has very good timing with his punch and he's able to show it off here. He starts moving towards Andrews before Lamar Jackson begins his throwing motion. Phillips is a physical player and this helps him a lot, especially in situations such as this one.
Like I said earlier, the Chargers would use Phillips in a way to cover receivers going over the middle of the field. This time, Phillips is going against one of the best receivers in the NFL in Tyreek Hill. Phillips is able to mirror him well and keep him covered long enough.
Phillips Against the Run
Now for what Phillips can bring against the run. Phillips is a very smart player; he understands that he doesn't have a great chance at beating an offensive lineman if the lineman gets his hands on him. So instead of attacking the offensive lineman, Phillips uses his quickness to get around him. There are multiple ways to defeat blocks and this is a great way for smaller players to defeat them. Phillips is able to avoid the center and fill up a huge hole. If he got picked up by the center here, this could have gone for a huge gain.
The Patriots have historically struggled against mobile quarterbacks in recent years, but that might change in 2020. Los Angeles was able to limit Lamar Jackson's rushing ability in both games in 2018 with the help of Phillips. In those two games against the Chargers, Jackson had a combined 93 rushing yards on 22 carries, averaging 4.2 YPC.
Phillips does a great job reading the play action and not getting tricked on this play. He's able to hit an opening and trip up Lamar Jackson before the reigning MVP even gets the opportunity to pick up a big gain.
This is another great example of Phillips getting around a blocker and making a play. If Orlando Brown is able to get his hands on Phillips, Phillips is going for a ride. Brown is a very strong player, but he isn't the best athlete and Phillips uses that to his advantage. As Phillips beats Brown, linebacker Jatavis Brown has a free shot at Lamar Jackson. This causes Jackson to have to cut upfield right to Phillips.
This is an awesome hustle play from Phillips. The center, Rodney Hudson, is able take Phillips off of his feet. However, Phillips is able to bounce right back up and get involved in this tackle. Phillips is a playmaker no matter where you put him, he just needs to be on the field.
Phillips is a very versatile player and the defensive staff of the Patriots is going to use him all over the defense. He has the ability to play in the box as a linebacker and match up against tight ends, wide receivers, and running backs while also being able to play some deep safety.
There are times where lineman will get their hands on Phillips and bully him out of the play. But I think that his ability to cover better than the linebackers on the roster will give him a lot of playing time in the box. He isn't the best coverage player in the world, but he is an upgrade from linebackers in that department. With his football IQ and the defensive staff in place, Phillips could be an impact defender in New England and help them against pass-heavy teams and mobile quarterbacks.