Browns Coach Backs Rookie Defender for Starting Job

Getty Browns third-round pick Jacob Phillips

The Cleveland Browns have some uncertainty at the linebacker position, which could open up the possibility for the team’s third-round pick Jacob Phillips to win a starting job.

Browns linebackers coach Jason Tarver heaped praise on the former LSU standout during a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday.

“We feel fortunate about is Jacob is a very smart, productive young man with high energy. He is very productive. He is a good box player who just got more and more productive as he went through the year on a championship team,” Tarver said of Phillips. “He is a winner, and he has good length, top speed and power in his body, which has improved throughout the offseason, which has been great to see. He is very smart, and he wants to know all of the positions.”

VideoVideo related to browns coach backs rookie defender for starting job2020-06-24T19:12:23-04:00

Jacob Phillips Will be in Running for Starting Spot

Tarver believes Phillips has an equally good shot to land a starting spot on the defense as anyone else like Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and veteran B.J. Goodson, who was signed this offseason.

“Right now, first of all, it is an open competition that all of our guys have a chance. It is open. That is the good part about this room, and they know it. B.J. Goodson signed with us because he wanted a chance to compete and be able to do that. It is open, and that is what it is exciting,” Tarver said. “The guy named the MIKE linebacker just ends up in the middle of the field more than the others, where the other guys on the edges will play a little bit more in space and maybe pressure a little more. That is really the only difference. Jacob has the skillset for all of those, and that is what we wanted. We wanted football intelligence. We wanted length and speed. He has those.”

VideoVideo related to browns coach backs rookie defender for starting job2020-06-24T19:12:23-04:00

Phillips comes to Cleveland with a dynamic skillset. At the combine he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and was highly productive during his time at LSU. Last season he led the SEC with 113 tackles during a National Championship campaign.

“Being only 21 and coming out early, he sort of had some things, and he has even gotten better with that in the offseason that he can do on shedding blocks and making plays, but he was highly productive,” Tarver said. “Leading that team in tackles is a big deal. His skillset really fits for any of the spots.”

Jacob Phillips Handing Virtual Offseason Well

GettyBrowns third-round pick Jacob Phillips.

Tarver commended Phillips — and the Browns rookie class — for handling a tough offseason that has seen the meeting rooms shift to the virtual Zoom landscape.

“We actually just got done with a rookie Zoom meeting, kind of like this where we were asking some questions and answers. He does a heck of a job of knowing what is about to happen to him and really taking notes,” Tarver said. “Been impressed there. Now, is [this offseason] harder? Yeah, it is different because you are not on the field with everybody, but what Zoom does allow you to do is spend some time in different little groups so everybody can get to know everybody and at least have a feel for who they are as people. Jacob has done a good job with it.”

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