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With the Jets on their bye week, we've been reviewing some of the Jets players, looking in detail at their season so far and what to expect from them coming out of the bye week. We're looking at a mixture of players who've exceeded expectations and some who have been disappointing so far. We continue today with a look at rookie edge rusher Kyle Phillips.
Expectations prior to the season
Entering training camp, there were no expectations at all for the undrafted rookie Phillips, who most felt was a longshot to make the roster.
With the Jets lacking much in the way of established talent at the edge defender positions, there was always a chance someone could step up and earn themselves a spot. However, hardly anyone expected the player that would lose their job as a result to be third-round pick Jachai Polite. This is exactly what happened, though, as Phillips worked his way up from the third unit and clinched a roster spot with a two-sack performance in the final preseason game.
Having made the roster, it seemed likely Phillips might be inactive for most of the season, with the Jets using a roster spot to stash the promising rookie rather than putting him on the practice squad with the risk of potentially losing his rights if another team poached him.
Stats over the first three weeks
Two games played (no starts)
No passes defensed
One tackle for loss
Two quarterback hits
As anticipated, Phillips began the season on the inactive list. However, injuries led to him being activated for last two. In Week Two against the Browns, he was on the field for 28 snaps and played well enough that his workload expanded to 47 reps in the Patriots game last week.
While his production has been modest, Phillips hasn't looked out of place. In the Browns game, he stuffed one run for a short gain and dropped off the line to get in on a third down tackle short of the marker. He had a couple of hits on Tom Brady in the Patriots game, including one to draw an intentional grounding penalty. He also made a tackle for loss hustling from the backside to clean up as the runner tried to cut back.
In preseason, Phillips, who is listed at 273 pounds, had played a mixture of interior line and on the edge, but he's played more on the edge during the regular season. He was handled at the point of attack in the running game when playing inside in preseason, but that hasn't happened as often while he's been lined up outside.
Expectations after the bye
With Phillips having shown some early promise, it will be tempting to continue to feed him opportunities to see if he can build upon his performances so far. After Polite turned out to be a bust, it might soften the blow to get a viable edge contributor from the same draft class. However, there may be limited playing time available for Phillips following the bye week.
Not only is Jordan Jenkins due to return from injury, but Brandon Copeland is due to make his return from suspension in Week Six. Not many people are talking about Copeland's return, but he established himself as a starter by the end of last season and ended up tied for third on the team with five sacks.
With players like Bronson Kaufusi, Frankie Luvu and Harvey Langi already part of the rotation, this might send Phillips back to the inactive list. Furthermore, the Jets also recently acquired two more young edge rushers in John Franklin-Myers and Jordan Willis. Neither has been active yet, so when they are up to speed the team will have a surplus of edge options. Even so, they've still been working out multiple edges this week.
Since he also has the versatility to play inside, that gives Phillips another way to potentially get further opportunities due to injury, but that might become less likely in a few weeks with Nathan Shepherd set to return from his own suspension.
If the Jets can get back into contention, they'll probably return to putting their more experienced players on the field with Phillips reverting back to being a roster stash. However, if they continue to lose, then the team's priorities will shift towards getting their most promising young players as much playing time as possible, much as they did with Luvu last year.