The Tennessee Titans were in the bottom half of NFL teams in terms of sacks last year, and Jurrell Casey‘s 10.5 sacks accounted for nearly one-third of the team’s quarterback take downs. However, the newest Titan may challenge Casey for most sacks this year.
Established NFL veteran pass rusher Shaun Phillips has inked a two-year, $6 million deal with Tennessee. Phillips isn’t considered a superstar, but he is currently 11th in the NFL in terms of active career sacks with 79.5. Phillips made his name as a San Diego Charger, accounting for 69.5 sacks in his 10 years there.
Phillips parlayed that impressive career into a one-year prove it deal with the Denver Broncos, and he did exactly that. In just one year in Denver (largely without the help of Von Miller due to a suspension and injury) Phillips racked up 10 sacks, five pass deflections, two forced fumbles and an interception.
Instead of overpaying for a huge name like Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware or LaMarr Woodley, the Titans waited out the market and let the value come to them. Phillips (who is a better fit in this system than any of the previous names except Woodley) was willing to come to Tennessee for just $6 million over two years. That is astonishing for a pass rusher without any recent injuries who is coming off of a 10-sack season.
The former Broncos’ game is predicated off of a lot of things. Firstly, his ability to line up as either a stand-up edge rusher, with his hand in the dirt on the edge or as a nickel five-technique make him very hard to scheme for. Also, despite being primarily a pass rusher, Phillips has the deceptive ability to anchor the edge in the running game.
Another underrated aspect of Phillips (and maybe one of the most important qualities to Ray Horton) is his ability to line up and get pressure from either side of the ball. This will allow him to line up against the weakest offensive tackle on the opposing team. With players like Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley as solid counters to Phillips, it should allow him to pick a side and not force one of the aforementioned pass rushers to play in their natural positions.
The most important thing now is that the Titans are now not forced into taking any one position in the 2014 NFL Draft. With their holes at right tackle, pass rusher, inside linebacker and running back patched up, they can focus on taking the best player available limiting the risk of a bust for first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt.