Cornerback Dashaun Phillips spent the 2016 offseason bulking up, and now he's secured the nickel position heading into training camp.
One of the early surprises throughout the offseason has been the play of cornerback Dashuan Phillips, who, since the start of OTAs has taken numerous snaps with the first-team defense in the nickel cornerback position.
The Washington Redskins held minicamp practice Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
After losing Kyshoen Jarrett in the last game of the regular season to a head and neck injury, one that will likely force him to miss this season, the Redskins have turned to Phillips to replace him in the secondary. So far, he has competed at a high level, and according to defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, "he's secured that position."
"We worked him all throughout the year last year at that spot and so he's brought that experience just from practice, and some game experience, to the spring and he's able to function," Fewell said. "He looks good, so he's taking advantage of this opportunity. He jumped on that nickel spot and he's not getting loose for anybody and that's what competition is all about."
Phillips said he has added close to 15 pounds in the offseason because he knew that would help him compete better for that spot. Last year he weighed around 175 pounds, and he admitted it was much tougher for him in a role that demands both agility and strength.
For a regimen, he said he simply ate more and lifted weights. "That's really it," he said.
"I knew that would help me out, and I knew that's what the coaches needed from me to put me in a position to compete at the nickel spot," Phillips said. "I just gotta work on my tackling once training camp rolls around. Like I said, I got bigger, faster, stronger, so that puts me in a better position to where I can really compete versus last year."
With Phillips often playing the third cornerback on the field, he's lined up with slot receivers and also must compete in the run game, sometimes acting as the second line of defense when a running back comes his way.
"You have to have cover skills and then you have to have the ability to blitz and go in there and take on some of the big guys, and then you have to have a little bit of safety in you, that you know you've got to take on sometimes a pulling guard or a tight end or what have you," Fewell said of the responsibilities of the position. "So it's kind of like it's three positions into one, but cover skills are the most important skills. The ability to think and be smart football player comes into factor."
Phillips suffered a similar head and neck injury as Jarrett in the same season finale against the Cowboys, but the injury didn't have the same severity. Still, it was a bit of a wake-up call for Phillips to change his physique for this season.
"I already knew I had to [change] before that even happened, before the injury took place I knew I needed to," Phillips said. "But that hit let me know, like, you gotta put yourself in a position to be able to compete, because I wasn't as comfortable last year as I am now."
While Fewell believes Phillips has locked in on the nickel position, he knows that could change by the fall. For now, though, Phillips isn't worried about his competition, he's just glad he's getting his opportunity and is keeping his head down.
"I was blessed, blessed to be getting these reps," he said. "I just feel more comfortable and confident now that I've been in the system you know what I'm saying, I know what I'm doing and it's just a blessing to be out there, really."