A domino effect has been taking place in the NFL due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The list goes on and on of players opting out for the 2020 season. As of now, the season will take place as scheduled. The Buffalo Bills will be without the services of defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei, who took a voluntary opt-out for the season. As it should be for every player, this decision must be respected. No player should be criticized for wanting to protect themselves and their families.
With Lotulelei not playing this season, what should the Bills do in the middle of the defensive line? Maybe go after a free agent like Damon Harrison? How about sticking with their original roster? If I remember correctly, Harrison Phillips started out 2019 with a productive start until a torn ACL in Week 3 kept him on the sideline for the remainder of the year.
Phillips was drafted in the third round in 2018 and has shown productivity over the past two seasons. He was originally drafted to take over for Kyle Williams but an injury kept him from showing his progression. Now, 2020 could be his year to shine along side second year tackle, Ed Oliver.
Phillips is still on his rookie deal and he will be approaching his contract year in a year. While it has not shown consistently, Phillips plugs up the gap to stop the run. Although, if he wants to be a future starter for the Bills, there has to be pass rush as well. His physicality has been put on display, but the 2020 season should be an opportunity to show the production on the defense.
It’s not like Phillips has to play every down as well. Free agent signees Vernon Butler and Quinton Jefferson will see some reps as well over the next two years of their contract, and unless either one of them shines and has breakout seasons, Phillips should be looked at as the future of the position in Buffalo, to go with Oliver.
If there is indeed a season, look for Phillips to make an impact and bounce back from an injury year.