Last offseason, the Cleveland Browns front office made significant upgrades in multiple areas.
They completely revamped the offensive line and brought in a few young pieces for the future.
Although, the biggest problem was that the organization failed to address the lack of talent at linebacker.
They added B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith, but both players are now heading into free agency.
That could mean second-year linebacker Jacob Phillips is asked to step up, but is he ready for the challenge?
Getting To Know Phillips
It’s honestly quite surprising that Phillips fell to the Browns in the third round.
He put together two outstanding seasons at LSU, which no doubt put his name on the map.
In 2018, he recorded 87 tackles, one sack, and one interception through 12 games.
Phillips followed that up with 113 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and one sack during his junior campaign.
#LSU corner Greedy Williams (top of your screen #29) goes from 0-100 on this interception by LB Jacob Phillips. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/2pV6odVj1C
— Mike O’Brien (@MOBrienNFL) February 3, 2019
Despite a lack of depth, Phillips didn’t see a whole lot of playing time in 2020.
Through nine games, he recorded 25 tackles, one pass defended, and one tackle for loss.
There is no doubting his hard hitting tackling ability, but there are still plenty of areas where Phillips needs to improve.
The biggest problem is he struggles in coverage and sometimes has a tough time reading routes.
Honestly, the best way to describe Phillips is an excellent physical prospect who has a below average football IQ.
Can Phillips Step Up?
The Browns are likely going to ask Phillips to play a bigger role next season.
He was mainly a rotational player last season, but should be asked to do more in 2021.
As of right now, Sione Takitaki, Mack Wilson, and Phillips are the starting linebackers going into the season.
Although, there is still free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cleveland add some linebacker depth.
Regardless, there should be a bigger role for Phillips after he showed some promising signs in 2020.
#Browns rookie LB Jacob Phillips had a pretty good game in his first "start" as the 3rd LB Sunday night. He got stuck on blocks or overpersued at times. But he also made some really nice plays. And he's definitely not shy out there. pic.twitter.com/MHtfWnavpI
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) December 24, 2020
Being realistic here, Phillips is unlikely going to have a breakout campaign.
There are still too many holes in his game for Cleveland to trust him as a full-time starter.
He was fairly limited last season and should be ready to take on more responsibility.
However, he is a work in progress and the Browns shouldn’t overload the young linebacker.
Getting a few quality veteran players around him should help elevate his game.
Phillips is an intriguing prospect, but expecting him to breakout in 2021 is an unrealistic idea.
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