After another lost New York Jets season, it’s time to evaluate this 53-man roster. Let’s continue this daily ranking with No. 16, defensive lineman Kyle Phillips.
New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan may have been behind some of the worst draft decisions in this franchise’s history. But he definitely made a few correct moves over the years in terms of the post-draft UDFA pool — including last year’s decision, in the form of a $30,000 guarantee to injury-riddled Tennessee defensive lineman Kyle Phillips.
The only Volunteer graded draft-worthy last April overcame back-to-back season-ending shoulder surgeries to crush the SEC in 2018 with his awe-inspiring arsenal of sacks, tackles for losses, pass deflections and interceptions.
The son of retired women’s pro basketball star and longtime Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips (the first African-American AD, now entering her 20th season) greatly impressed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from his first visit to Florham Park.
Kyle remarked about dealing with his toughest coach; his mother:
“It’s helped me translate that into my own career in sports. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity I had. And I feel like that’s what’s helped me be a very coachable kid because I had a coach as a mom, and especially it being my mom. Just learning how to deal with different styles of coaches, learning how to push through a season, seeing her being an athletic director at a high position, I’ve seen the everyday grind of what it takes to be successful.”
Though his Gang Green stat lines dramatically faded as the 2019 season wore down, Phillips rated in his rookie season a solid 66.0 PFF ranking — dominating opposing offenses with his 27 solo tackles and four sacks. But the chiseled 6-foot-4, 275 pounds D-lineman displayed tremendous on-field versatility, with a unique ability to either perform with his “hands in the dirt” inside or outside; or even upright as an attacking linebacker.
Kyle has overcome considerable NFL career odds, to develop into a major factor on this green-and-white defense moving forward. He works hard every day, comes to play every down, and keeps his mouth shut. Phillips is yet one more reason that the New York Jets will never have to endure the bad ol’ days of 2015 “can’t-miss” first-round lottery pick Leonard Williams.