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Dolphins’ first-round pick Jaelan Phillips looked like a rookie in his NFL debut and that’s okay

The 18th-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft played 27 snaps on Saturday, recording two tackles in his NFL debut at Hard Rock Stadium.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When the Miami Dolphins drafted Jaelan Phillips with the 18th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, it seemed pretty clear this wasn’t your typical pass-rusher. For starters, he stands at 6’6, 260 pounds, and runs sideline to sideline like a heat-seeking missile. He was one of my favorite prospects in this class, something I wrote about earlier this year.

Here’s the snippet from that article.

Phillips dominated whoever lined up opposite of him. Guards were no match, and neither were most tackles. His Mr.Miyagi hands were too quick for the opposition. His strength and quickness as well. Jaelan Phillips can do it all. Whether that meant setting the EDGE in the run game or exploding off the line on his way to the quarterback,

Adding Jaelan Phillips, to Miami’s ascending defense spells trouble for the rest of the league. Quarterbacks everywhere would go to sleep at night, fearing the day they play Brian Flores’ football team. If the medicals checkout and Phillips can remain healthy, there may not be a better pass-rusher in this class.

Unfortunately for Phillips, a leg injury sidelined him through the first few weeks of camp, forcing him to miss Miami’s preseason opener vs. the Chicago Bears. However, last week, Philips returned to practice and showed the coaches and medical staff enough to give him the full go vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

A game in which the former Miami Hurricanes star would be making his much-anticipated debut.

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During Saturday’s 37-17 win over the Falcons, Jaelan Phillips recorded two total tackles. He played off and on through four quarters, playing 27 (53%) of the Miami Dolphins defensive snaps. Here’s a look at Jaelan Phillips’ NFL debut vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

In my opinion, Phillips was explosive and looked dominant at times. He was flashing all over the field. However, there were also a few instances where he was hesitating and not trusting his eyes. As a result, he almost seemed a second too late, but this is not something I’m too concerned about.

Overall, there’s still work to be done for the Dolphins’ young pass-rusher. He needs to do a better job of shedding blocks and, again, trusting his instincts. Nevertheless, for his first showing, I was quite pleased with what I saw out of Phillips. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer agrees.

“I think the thing for Jaelan is he’s going to keep working. Yesterday or whatever day we played, it was the first experience he had in the NFL on the field. We were excited for that for him. There are some good things out there and there are some things he’ll get better. He can’t buy experience. One of the ways to get better is to play. When you can expose him to multiple things and he can see multiple looks and get the experience of it, some of the things we’ve seen in practice and some of the things he’s done, obviously we expect it to trend in an upward pattern about where he’s getting better.”

Against the Falcons, Phillips set the EDGE well and looked like a sportscar exploding off the line. But, ironically enough, the thing that stood out most was his motor. That is not something you can teach, and Phillips was relentless in his effort—well into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game.

Like Boyer says, we all hope this is an upward trend because the Dolphins' defense could be scary good if Jaelan Phillips is firing on all cylinders.

But for those of you concerned with Jaelan Phillips after only one preseason game. Let me give you just one piece of advice. Don’t be.

What were your thoughts on Jalean Phillips's performance vs. the Atlanta Falcons? Did he play better or worse than you expected? When the team plays week one in New England, what type of role do you see him having in Josh Boyer’s defense? Let us know in the comments section below!