Jaelen Phillips

Dolphins bringing LB Jaelen Phillips back gradually

When the Miami Dolphins drafted Jaelen Phillips with the 18th overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft, it was with the understanding they were taking a chance with his health. Phillips has suffered wrist injuries, ankle injuries, and numerous concussions in his college career. Now, Phillips is dealing with another injury, one that’s either kept him limited in practice, or not practicing at all. Needless to say, it’s been a slow start for the Miami Hurricane standout.

Before the start of Miami’s first preseason game, Jaelen Phillips was among the players sitting out. This is in spite of the fact that Phillips practiced against the Bears during their joint sessions. Lately the Dolphins have been tight-lipped regarding player injuries. If they can help it, they won’t disclose the details. But one thing head coach Brian Flores was willing to admit was that their plan is to bring Jaelen Phillips along slowly.

“Again, when we are trying to work guys back, we just want to take our time and not have any setbacks.” Flores said on Tuesday. “We plan on working him in against Atlanta whether it is both days, the first day. We will talk through that. Again, he’s doing everything he can possibly do to get out there. As a young guy, he needs reps but at the same time, we want to be smart with our plan to bring him back. We are working him back in.”

The brief time he practiced against Chicago, reports circulated that he was playing with the starting unit as a buck linebacker. This means he was responsible for rushing the passer as well as dropping into pass coverage when needed.

One of the biggest things Jaelen Phillips has going for him is his versatility. Just nine days earlier, Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer talked about how Phillips’s flexibility opens up endless possibilities for the defense to play with.

“I think there are a number of things I think he can do for us.” Boyer said on August 9. “Obviously we’d like to get him out there and see as many things as we can. I think it’s not just unique to him, it’s all players; and we try to make them as multiple as possible. I think the more that guys can do from a position flexibility standpoint, it makes you a little bit more multiple as a defense and it gives them more value as a player. If he can do a couple things that are end-type responsibility and do a couple things that are backer-type responsibility – the other thing is it allows us to be multiple. You don’t necessarily know where guys are gong to line up play after play after play.”

Phillips’s fellow linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was also asked about the rookie out of Miami, and he had plenty of praise to offer as well.


“He’s very quick and fast. His first step is explosive.” Van Ginkel said on Tuesday. “He’s also strong at the top, so he’s got many different moves he can work with. I love how he comes in and works every day. His will to get better and all of that is there on a day-to-day basis. You love to see that.”

In the grand scheme of things, the NFL is a marathon, not a sprint. It makes sense for the Dolphins to use caution with Jaelen Phillips. Especially if they intend to have him available during the regular season.

As Miami plays host to Atlanta, it will be worth keeping a close eye on Phillips. He definitely has some catching up to do on the field. With any luck, he’ll get up to speed faster to make up for the extra recovery time.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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