As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done all offseason; these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
With nose tackle not a glaring need, there won’t be many that pinpoint the Steelers taking a nose tackle early. Kevin Colbert likes to play the ‘best player available’ card many times if the right person falls, or their target pick doesn’t fall. If Jordan Phillips is on the board at 22, there is a chance Colbert pulls the trigger on him.
#80 – Jordan Phillips/ NT Oklahoma: 6052, 329
-Great size, lean build
-Long arms (34 ¾)
-Endless motor, runs to the ball
-Takes up a lot of space at the line of scrimmage
-Commands double teams and still thrives
-Strong, powerful first step
-Quick for a player his size
-Moves laterally well, could use improvement
-Has a variety of finesse moves (swim, rip, spin, bull rush etc.)
-Very strong, penetrates easily
-Times the snap consistently
-Dominant in run defense
-Rarely does he lose 1 on 1 battles
-If his first step isn’t explosive, his effort declines
-Inconsistent power in first step
-Needs to keep his feet moving after engagement at line of scrimmage
-Needs to fight with his hands more often when he doesn’t win at line of scrimmage
-Tends to end up on the ground more often than you’d like
-Can overextend at times, gets caught off balance
-Needs to improve play against cut-blocks
-Some medical red flags: back surgery in 2014
-5 star recruit (Scout) 4 star recruit (Rivals/ESPN.com)
-Only played 4 games as a sophomore (2013) due to back injury
-Only one true year of production
-Played in 28 career games, started 17
-All-Big 12 Second Team (Coaches/AP)
-Under Armour All American out of High School
-58 career total tackles, 3.5 sacks
Watching Jordan Phillips you can’t but help think of fellow Steeler Casey Hampton or Kansas City Chiefs’ nose tackle Dontari Poe. They are true forces at the line of scrimmage and are referred to as brick walls. Lucas Campbell said it best in his article on Phillips that his motor runs hot and cold. When he is on his game, he could force his way through double teams into the backfield. When it’s cold, you see no continuation of his feet and his effort seems to diminish.
Phillips’ motor is one of his best assets. Pittsburgh defensive line coach John Mitchell will love this kid if drafted for this reason. He simply runs to the ball and no tackle is seen to be out of his reach. The ball is caught and travelled 13 yards from the line of scrimmage and Phillips still makes the tackle.
Moving laterally is something that Phillips will need to do at the NFL level. He can be inconsistent at times with this, but here he plays it perfectly. He holds the point of attack and moves laterally, keeping his outside hand free to wrap up the ball carrier.
With a weak first step, Phillips didn’t attempt a finesse move nor did he even churn his feet to gain power. He was stood up and did not move from where he started. He needs to have a more explosive first step and to keep his feet moving. Would like to see a little more effort and power from a nose tackle.
When he moves at his true 110% force and capability, not many can stop him. His shear power overwhelms a single-team twice in the same game, as he is in the backfield within seconds. Here are two instances in the same game where he dominates Texas Tech’s center.
Phillips can have a very strong and explosive first step. Here, his motor is at the top of its game and he uses a rip move to get penetration. He explodes through Tennessee’s interior line, and uses his athleticism to get a sack on 3rd and 8.
When his bull rush fails, Phillips doesn’t know what else to do. When it fails to penetrate here, he doesn’t use his hands to fight off and shed the center. When he uses his hands to fight off offensive lineman, he is rarely unsuccessful. Would like to see what Mitchell could do to help Phillips in this phase.
In the NFL, the defensive tackle or nose tackle have two overall responsibilities. On a pass play: penetrate and collapse the pocket. On a run play: command attention and take up space. On a pass play, sacks are better and on a run play, a tackle for loss is better. In these instances, Phillips demands attention, takes up space and makes tackles. This is exactly what you want from your defensive tackles.
With a small and weak first step, Phillips is immobile. As he tries to use his upper body strength to penetrate, he fails to keep his feet under him and moving. His long arms will lead him to over extend at times and cause him to be off balance. Here, that is exactly what occurs and he ends up on the ground, which is never good on the football field.
Phillips has all the tools necessary to be successful at the NFL level. His arsenal of pass rush moves, explosive first step, constant motor and dominance in the run game are extremely sought after. The only catch is can he perform consistently at such a high level at his maximum potential? It’s been noticed his motor can go cold, or his effort can diminish if he doesn’t win at the line of scrimmage. He only has one full season of starting and true production under his belt. With great coaching and an assembly of his positive attributes, he could bring a tremendous athlete to the city of Pittsburgh.
Although the need of a nose tackle is not urgent, Colbert can play the best player available card and draft pure athletes rather than attack need. Reaching is not something the Steelers do and this may play well into Phillips’ hands. Steve McLendon has done a great job and has encountered non-deserved criticism for being the heart of a defensive line who has not been steel-curtain like the past couple seasons. McLendon has actually been part of the solution rather than the problem. He is facing the last year of his contract and the Steelers could re-sign him or look to other options to fill his spot. Daniel McCullers was drafted in the 6th round last year and showed some positive signs. At 6’7”, it is difficult for McCullers to keep his pad level low, but seems to be learning and adapting well. I don’t see the Steelers moving on from McLendon until a decline is noticed. At the age of 29, it would make sense if the Steelers draft some insurance. Phillips is not just insurance, but an athlete that can be a dominating force.
Projection: 1st– early 2nd
Games Watched: 2014 vs Tennessee, 2014 at TCU, 2014 at Texas Tech
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