During his seven-year pro career, Phillips steadily improved and developed as both a blocker and a receiver. Today, he's one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL.
The Denver Broncos signed him right as they kicked off 2016 training camp. Unfortunately, he "rolled" an ankle right out of the gates and has spent the better part of the last three weeks getting mental reps from the sidelines.
Finally back on the grid-iron practice field, Phillips is slowly being worked into the Broncos tight end rotation. With Denver's move toward deploying Gary Kubiak's West Coast Offense variant in its fullness, the tight end position becomes a focal point.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1697110-could-the-broncos-be-shop... Tight end is key for Kubiak's vision. Broncos fans will remember the proliferation of the tight end position during Kubiak's first tenure as offensive coordinator. Remember Shannon Sharpe? He revolutionized the position.
Kubiak loves his two-TE sets. And he loves to feed the ball to the tight end. They get used frequently in both the running game and the passing game.
The Broncos need well-rounded players at the position. Before Phillips' arrival, the only balanced player the Broncos had at the position was Virgil Green. First-year player Jeff Heuerman is still acclimating to life as a pro, all while fighting to stay healthy, which has been a constant struggle for the former Ohio State Buckeye.
The Broncos have somewhat forced the issue of Heuerman's development, going so far as to list him as a "co-starter" with Green on the initial depth chart. We got our first look at Heuerman in the Broncos 22-0 preseason victory at Chicago and there wasn't much to write home about.
Don't think the Broncos didn't notice. Heuerman still has a long way to go. The Broncos signed Houston transplant Garrett Graham, but he's had an extremely quiet camp. Henry Krieger-Coble, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa, seems to already have leap-frogged Graham.
Krieger-Coble and Green were the only tight ends on the field during team period today at Broncos Camp. Heuerman is dealing with a hamstring and Phillips is still being worked back into full participation. No mention of Garrett Graham. Not a good sign.
Phillips will soon be back in full action for the Broncos. We might get a good look at him this Saturday in the Broncos second preseason game vs. the San Francisco 49ers. He's still trying to grasp the intricacies of the offense, but already his experience is helping him and according to offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, could make a difference in his future roster prospects.
“He’s a big guy. He’s a strong guy," Dennison said after Wednesday's joint-practice with the Niners. "He has great experience in the league. He left us so quickly when he got here, so now we are trying to get him caught up. His experience, it bodes well for him. He knows what to do.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1697207-broncos-2016-training-cam... By "bodes well", is Dennison referring to Phillips' ability to absorb the Broncos playbook? Or was he referring to a spot on the final roster?
My gut tells me it's the latter. He might not be well-known among NFL fans, but Phillips is highly regarded around the league as a jack-of-all-trades. Albeit, a master of none.
For a team like the Broncos, trying to transition to a tight end-centric offense, they need reliable players at the position who can be counted on to execute when the chips are down.
Phillips has 45 career receptions, for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He can also contribute on special teams.
Krieger-Coble still has a long way to go in developing the NFL body and physicality needed to contend at this level and the more time that passes, the less Graham seems to factor in to the Broncos plans.
Don't sleep on John Phillips. If he can overcome the injury bug, he might have a place on this team.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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