Nania’s All-22 takes a deep dive on New York Jets defensive lineman Kyle Phillips 2019 season with film and numbers galore.
Career recap: The New York Jets signed Kyle Phillips as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee following the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite a decently productive final season with the Volunteers (55 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, four passes defended, one interception, and one blocked kick), Phillips was not selected, largely due to his age (turned 24 in October) and numerous deficiencies related to technique and awareness that showed up on tape.
2019 expectations: With the Jets severely lacking talent on the edge, Phillips had a golden opportunity to separate himself from the crowd of mediocre players competing at the position. Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland were roster locks, but the depth behind those two was a major question mark. Phillips would be battling against unproven players such as Bronson Kaufusi, Tarell Basham, Frankie Luvu, Harvey Langi, and Jamey Mosley for a spot in the rotation — a favorable opportunity for an undrafted free agent.
After generating little noise through the media waves in training camp, Phillips broke out in the preseason. He led the team in run stops (five) and tied Tarell Basham for the team lead in pressures (seven).
Phillips made a strong case for a roster spot in the preseason finale against Philadelphia, recording two sacks, a quarterback hit, and three tackles for no gain or a loss in the run game.
Versatility was a huge plus displayed by Phillips throughout the preseason. After primarily playing the 5 and 4i-techniques at Tennessee, he took on a wide array of roles while auditioning for Gregg Williams, and showcased the potential to contribute positively in many of them. Here, Phillips records a sack on Clayton Thorson from the wide-nine.
Phillips made the opening-week roster, starting the season on the inactive list for the Week 1 clash against Buffalo. Following a slew of injuries in that game, Phillips was set to make his NFL debut against Cleveland in Week 2.
At this point, it already felt like the sky was falling on the Jets’ season. Any sliver of hope that Phillips could provide would be warmly welcomed.
Positives: Phillips would appear in all 15 games after being activated for Week 2, as he immediately became a key part of the defensive front. He played 550 defensive snaps over the course of the season (36.7 per game, 52.6% of team’s defensive snaps on average), ninth-most among all Jets defenders and third-most on the defensive line behind Jenkins (573) and Basham (594).
The Jets did a fantastic job in run defense throughout the season, ranking second in DVOA. Phillips was one of the primary driving forces behind that success, as he was able to make a profound impact against the run in his debut season.