Second-year pass rusher Jaelan Phillips reached the quarterback for seven sacks last year but was much more consistent than that stat may suggest.
Phillips ranked fourth among edge rushers with 19 quarterback hits and was seventh with 48 hurries. With 15.5 sacks throughout two seasons, the former first-round pick believes working with Vic Fangio benefits anyone looking to disrupt the quarterback.
“I think the biggest thing is obviously the work the back end does because without the back end, we really don’t have any chance to pass rush,” Phillips said on Sunday when asked how Fangio’s defense maximizes the pass rush. “So just being cohesive, playing together and marrying the coverage with the pass rush and the linebackers and everything.
“I think that’s going to be key for us and that’s something that I’ve definitely noticed so far.”
The Dolphins tied the Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, and Pittsburgh Steelers with 40 sacks — fourteenth-most in the NFL last season. Phillips stepped into a three-down role due to improving as a run-stopper in his second season. He started 15 games and was on the field for 73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps after playing just 54 percent as a rookie.
With another offseason to improve, Phillips plans to convert more hits and hurries into sacks in 2023.
“I think that’s the biggest thing,” Phillips said of turning pressures into sacks, “Obviously numbers at the end of the day don’t really show the big pictures and I’m not chasing numbers, but ultimately the more sacks I have, the better it is for the team and so ultimately that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Recently-acquired Jalen Ramsey is sidelined for an extended period of time but Miami’s defense should still improve after allowing the league’s fifth most passing yards (239.3) in 2022.
The Denver Broncos finished as a top-12 passing defense in two of Fangio’s three seasons coaching the team and in South Florida, cohesion and communication are themes as he installs his 20-plus years of experience coaching professional football.
“I think it’s always important to marry the rush and really to marry the whole entire defense together,” Phillips said. “In terms of communication, they have a lot of things going on so it would blow my mind to even try to think about communicating about the coverage and stuff unless obviously I’m involved in it, so I think just communication as a whole is really good and pre-play or when we’re getting in the huddle and we’re talking and stuff.
“We have definitely a good bond and a lot of good communication between us.”