3. Jacob Phillips, No. 97
It may seem like a stretch to pencil in Jacob Phillips as a starter, but who else do the Browns have that could legitimately start at the position?
It’s entirely possible he could start, especially on rushing downs, with him subbing out when the Browns have to go into the nickel formation.
Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki are back from a year ago, but the duo, especially Takitaki, are also unproven.
Everything the Browns are doing on defense is about finding a schematic fit and they consider Phillips to possess sideline to sideline sped. He ran a 4.66 40, which is noteworty considering Joe Schobert ran it in a 4.76 seconds. One second doesn’t seem like a lot, but in the world of the NFL, speed is everything.
The Browns signed B.J. Goodson to be a body position, and you can see the veteran playing his fair share of snaps.
That said, if Phillips shows he gets it, I doubt the Browns will hesitate to put him in. Remember, Wilson was very impressive coming into Cleveland as a fifth-round pick. As a rookie, he had his flaws, but he still put together a solid rookie campaign.
The Browns hope to improve stopping the run, which is a complaint we usually have every season.
Adding Phillips will help them do that. LSU had one of the best rushing defenses in the country last year, and Phillips didn’t miss his changes. On 88 tackling attempts, the third-round pick missed just three times, according to PFF.