Unfamiliar with Jacob Phillips?
This year, the football world may learn all about the Cleveland Browns linebacker.
There’s no question the Browns roster is littered with talent.
However, there are still some “weak” spots some could point to.
One of the areas with room for improvement is the linebacker position.
This has been the case for a couple of seasons now.
The Mack Wilson experiment, disappointing as it was, is now over with Wilson in New England.
Veteran Anthony Walker is back on another one-year deal, which helps bring a much-needed veteran presence.
#Browns Anthony Walker finished with the 4th-best PFF coverage grade (78.2) and the 8th-most coverage snaps per target (9.3) among qualifying LBs in 2021.
Nice to see him back with the orange and brown. https://t.co/7gjVT9MbVl
— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) March 16, 2022
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah hopes to take another step forward after an electric rookie season.
Right behind them on the depth chart, though, is Phillips.
I’m fine with Anthony Walker coming back but the Hope is that this becomes a Jacob Phillips and JOK show #Browns
— Jeff-LJ-Lloyd (@Jeff_LJ_Lloyd) March 16, 2022
He hasn’t had the most opportunities to see the field, playing in just four games last season.
A torn bicep in camp kept him sidelined until December.
When Jacob Phillips makes his impact in 2022, you’ve heard it here first:
The man is a pro bowl talent—higher pressure % than JOK, similar run stop % and he was better in coverage.
Only 123 snaps, but they were dominant and efficient. pic.twitter.com/4eHlIiobzB
— Browns Bot 🤖 ➐ (@Browns_Bot) March 20, 2022
— Tyler Johnson (@T_johnson_TJ) March 30, 2022
Getting a Consistent Chance
It’s hard for many non-top draft picks to see the field consistently.
If a guy is behind on the depth chart, stringing together high-level practices and making the most of in-game situations are the best ways to try and see more snaps.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done.
Even with Walker back, expect Phillips to give him a run for his money throughout camp for one of those starting spots.
JOK is in the plans for Cleveland.
There’s no doubt about that.
With how well he performed as a rookie, defensive coordinator Joe Woods would be a fool to take him off the field.
That leaves Walker and Phillips to duke it out.
Phillips is the younger option, but not by much.
He’s 23, but Walker is just 26.
Walker has certainly made the most of his chances in the NFL, going from fifth-round pick to starting linebacker.
Still, the Browns probably want to see what they have in their third-round selection from 2020.
When he returned to action last season, head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke highly of the former LSU Tiger.
“Really excited for Jacob to be back out there in uniform and practicing. Those are long ways away when you first get injured, and you are spending time in that training room. Just to see him out there, that is just a great reflection of how hard he has worked. Now in terms of when he is back and when he is ready, we will work through that. Just wanted to put my eyes on him. Had his first practice, watch the tape and see how he is doing, but we will make those determinations over the next few days.”
If he performs well through camp and stays healthy, expect Phillips to get plenty of chances at the start of the season.
Making Splash Plays
Winning the turnover battle is something the Browns need to correct this season.
They went from a +5 differential in 2020 to a -3 last season.
Phillips has the athleticism, strength, and coverage ability to make a game-changing play.
He’s yet to tally an interception, forced fumble, or fumble recovery. I expect that to change this year.
If Phillips can make a habit out of making the big play, like forcing late-game turnovers or getting his side off the field on third down, a breakout season could be incoming.
The talent and tools are there. It’s just a matter of piecing it all together.