Denver Broncos Linebacker Shaun Phillips has a huge chip on his shoulder. Not only did he have no idea that he would actually be replacing Von Miller for the first six games of the 2013 NFL season, he is annoyed that many imply he can’t be as effective as he has been in the past. Initially, Phillips was brought in to help fill the Elvis Dumervil void on defense, and now he’s a key figure to our defensive pass rush without #58 and Dumervil.
When asked whether or not he’s worried about this task, Phillips said,
“I’ve been in the league 10 years, if I’ve got pressure now, something’s wrong.”
“We don’t have to do more because Von’s not here. We just have to do what we do. Me, personally, I’ve been playing football for 10 years. I think I’ve been successful without Von so far.”
Shaun came to Denver because he wants to win a Super Bowl. After signing with the team in March, he said he was “on the good side now.” He told, then reporter for the Denver Post, Jeff Legwold, now a Broncos reporter for ESPN,
“After about five minutes in this building, I knew this was the spot, just the guys they have around here, guys that want to win. I’ve called it a no-brainer, because if I didn’t sign here it probably meant I lost my mind.”
It didn’t take long for fans to move past his tenure with the San Diego Chargers. All most had to do was imagine him sacking Philip Rivers instead of Peyton Manning and they were cured of their hatred for the guy. Initially he had two teams in mind, Denver or the Houston Texans. The Oakland Raiders offered him a nice contract, but he had to pass.
“At this point in my career, I’ve made some money. I’ve done that, so it was really just down to do you go to the team that pays you the most money and you have a miserable season? Or do you go to a team that will take care of you and give you a chance to win?”
Learning a new defensive scheme, especially one as complicated as Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio’s sounds, was not as easy as he thought it was going to be. It got him questioning whether or not he was still any good at football. He told the Denver Post’s Christopher Dempsey that,
“It’s a completely different scheme, but I’m getting adjusted. The guys are helping me. Now that I know the playbook pretty well, I’ve just got to learn the nuances within the defense. I know what I’m doing. Now I just need to figure out what everyone else is doing at the same time so it can allow me to make more plays.”
Phillips thinks that once he has it all figured out, he will be able to make more plays than he did in San Diego. Del Rio is pleased with Shaun’s progress and the player himself, although it has been difficult, has loved the opportunity to become a better player.
“My goal is to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get exactly where I need to be, until my craft is perfected. It took years and years, not just days and days. Not just this season… That’s what I love about football. Two things: One, the process of building up and, two, the camaraderie amongst your team that you did something together and achieved something together.”
Shaun’s versatility is a huge bonus for the team at the moment. His expanded role, ability to play multiple positions and fill the pass rushing void in any way possible, should console Bronco fans who are worried about life without Von. His mantra this off-season has been,
“Whether I’m playing defensive end, linebacker, it really doesn’t matter. Football is football, and at the end of the day you tackle the guy with the ball.”
Phillips is going into his tenth season in the league and he has racked up an impressive 69 1/2 sacks. Despite the Chargers struggles last year, he had 9 1/2 sacks, including one against Denver. Elvis had 11 in 2012. Shaun reminds fans that,
“It’s not just about the sacks. It’s about the coverage, and it’s about the sacks. It’s about stopping the run, because we all know that you can’t get sacks without stopping the run. Right now, our philosophy is stopping the run and sacks are going to come; we’ve got guys who can get after it a little bit. Unfortunately we lost our best pass rusher for a couple of games, but it is what it is. You have hiccups in life, but you bounce back from them.”
After Dumervil went sackless for the first two games of the 2012 season, Coach John Fox told Mike Klis of the Denver Post, “you guys put too much into sacks. That’s about 30 percent of their job.”
Losing Von Miller is a blow to our defense, but he is not the only player on the team. Bronco fans need to remember who their defensive coordinator is and realize that for the first time in Champ Bailey’s tenure as a Denver Bronco, the team has the same defensive coordinator for two consecutive seasons. Jack Del Rio is a defensive mastermind. Losing Von Miller will not break this team.
The team is in great hands.
Is there pressure? Sure. But like Shaun Phillips says,
“Pressure can either break you or pressure can make diamonds. We’re going to continue with the philosophy that pressure is going to make diamonds for us. We’ll be quite alright.”