Player Spotlights

Is Adrian Phillips Primed for Larger Role?

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With “The Beard” all but officially trimmed, the Chargers have an obvious hole in the back end of the secondary.

And while the Bolts will certainly consider safeties in free agency and the draft, they may already have an answer on the roster in first-year safety Adrian Phillips.

Having spent parts of the past two seasons on the practice squad, Phillips has had limited opportunities to make an impact. He has started just two games in two seasons, but was a very solid defender at the collegiate level.

Phillips started 28 games in four years at Texas, which has produced first-round safeties such as Earl Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro in recent years, as well as long-time Charger Quentin Jammer.

A sure tackler in college, Phillips racked up 206 tackles in 50 games and showed good instincts when diagnosing plays. He also flashed incredible closing speed in both coverage and the running game, and was quick off the edge as a pass rusher.

In Chargers training camp last year, Phillips had some of the best footwork of any defensive back, and while his play with the third-string secondary wasn’t spectacular, it was consistently solid.

As a pure athlete, Phillips is absolutely ready to be an NFL starter, but is he ready to fill Eric Weddle’s shoes?

Based on Phillips’ play in the Week 17 matchup against the Broncos, perhaps he is.

Phillips ended the game with three combined tackles — putting his career total at 19 — and an impressive interception of QB Brock Osweiler that he returned 39 yards.

“Adrian Phillips is another young player that, number one, is really smart,” said defensive coordinator John Pagano prior to the Denver game. “He is a real pro.”

As it stands now, hard-hitting safety Jahleel Addae will be pencilled in as the starter at strong safety, and Phillips will enter training camp competing with veteran Darrell Stuckey for the free safety spot.

Listed as Weddle’s backup on the depth chart for years, Stuckey has been a great special teamer for he Chargers, but has never developed into a reliable defensive back, opening the door for Phillips to start last season.

Of course, the Chargers would be daft not to bring in some additional help in the offseason, and there some appealing options available in the draft.

Florida State cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey will almost certainly be available when the Chargers pick in the first round, and San Diego met with Boise State’s Darian Thompson at the Senior Bowl, according to our own Michael Lombardo.

While Phillips will likely never match the play of a five-time All Pro like Weddle, his instincts and experience in the defense should give him the advantage over any rookie the Bolts are likely to bring in, at least at the start of camp.

About Trenton Villanueva

A San Diego native, Trenton Villanueva graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a minor in the hydraulic principles of the keg. Prior to writing for SDBR, he covered sports news for FanSided and wrote music reviews for the San Diego State Daily Aztec.

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