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Jordan Phillips: 'I'm Already There' Among League's Best Defensive Tackles

Cardinals' marquee free agent pickup expected to add interior pressure on defense

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips expects another big season after his 2019 breakout with the Bills.
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips expects another big season after his 2019 breakout with the Bills.

Jordan Phillips tapped into his potential in a big way in 2019, accumulating 9½ sacks with the Bills after only registering 5½ the previous four years combined.

While his fifth season was the outlier, the mammoth defensive tackle is confident it was no aberration.

After finishing second in the NFL in sacks among defensive tackles a year ago – behind only Aaron Donald – the Cardinals' marquee free agent addition believes he should already be categorized as an upper echelon player at his position.

"Me, personally, I feel like I'm already there," Phillips said. "I can play all downs. I'm really good in the run. I'm really good in the pass. I can run down screens. I have a great motor. So to say I'm not up there is behind me already. Now I've just got to go out there and prove it again."

The Cardinals certainly believe in the high-end potential of Phillips after giving him a three-year, $30 million deal on the open market.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph coached him as a young player in Miami, where Phillips would show flashes but lacked consistency. Years later, the maturity is noticeable.

"Talking to Jordan face-to-face, he's different," Joseph said. "He wants to be a Pro Bowl player. He wants to be a name in this league. He has the size and the ability to do those things. He's got to go do it consistently on Sundays. He's definitely a guy that's going to help our front be more dominant in the run and pass game alike."

The Cardinals had an elite edge-rushing presence last season in Chandler Jones, who finished second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting after totaling 19 sacks. The interior, though, lacked consistent push, which is why Phillips was so coveted.

"When you've got a great edge rusher and you don't have inside pressure, quarterbacks can get back to their spot, step up and then slide out," defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said. "You sort of negate your edge guy. Jordan is going to bring a big presence inside that we haven't had since Calais Campbell. He's a big, physical body. He's a big, tall man. He eats up space, has a great get-off, and we want to make sure that quarterback doesn't have a soft pocket."

Phillips is excited about the symbiotic relationship with Jones, whom he calls "probably the best rusher in the league." Jones has talked of setting the single-season sack record in 2020 but it won't be easy if he is consistently double-teamed.

"If Chan is out there doing what he does, then great, he's going to get his 15, 16 sacks a year," Phillips said. "But where's the help at? He can't do it all by himself. I feel like that's why I was brought here. I feel like that's why (Devon Kennard) was brought here, to help Chan and try to get some more push. If I do what I need to do, I can get him up to 20 sacks, 23 sacks."

Joseph said Phillips has the capacity to get 10 sacks himself this season. He certainly looks the part, with surprising agility for someone who stands 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds.

As a second-round pick in 2015, the pedigree was always there, but Phillips' early-career production was not. The light went on in Buffalo, and Phillips is adamant it won't burn out in Arizona.

"I came out of a two-gap, 3-4 system," Phillips said. "I played '0' nose but I always had my basketball background, and I never really got to use my explosiveness. Once I figured out I was bigger and faster than most people, it just kind of took over where I could just get off the ball. As long as I get you with my hands and my head, it's pretty much a wrap for you."