Should Colts Sign Pass Rusher Shaun Phillips?


One of the Indianapolis Colts AFC South division rivals, the Tennessee Titans announced this afternoon that they have released outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. The 11-year veteran pass rusher has 19 tackles and 2 sacks on the season in 11 games. He is 58th on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 81.5 career sacks.

With Robert Mathis out for the season and being sorely missed, it begs the question of whether the Indianapolis Colts should looking into adding the former Purdue Boilermaker standout to aid their inconsistent pass rush on the outside. While Jonathan Newsome has been a pleasant suprise in this department as a rookie 5th round pick, starting outside linebackers Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner have offered very little pass rush to the objective observer.

Shaun Phillips of the Denver Broncos sacks Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 20, 2013 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Phillips’ pass rushing pedigree speaks for itself, but how much does he realistically have left in the tank at 33 years old? 

The good news is that he’s coming off a recent double-digit, 10 sack season with the Denver Broncos in 2013. The bad news is that he hasn’t been very effective this season.

According to the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus, Phillips has an overall grade of -6.6, which places him 43rd of the 48 outside linebackers that have played at least 25% of their team’s defensive snaps. Even worse, his pass rush grade is -7.1, which ranks 46th of the 48 outside linebackers that meet the aforementioned criteria. That pass rush grade is behind Erik Walden (24th), Jonathan Newsome (25th), and Bjoern Werner (30th). If Phillips is supposed to be an upgrade over this current pass rushing group, it sure doesn’t look like he will be. 

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However, one could reasonably make the case that he’s better than someone like recently re-signed 5th-year veteran outside linebacker Victor Butler, who has appeared in 2 games with the team and has 11 career sacks. However, Butler can at least play special teams.

If Phillips can’t offer much as a pass rusher, then he’s essentially worthless on the active roster, as it’s hard to envision the 33-year old running down the field and making tackles on kick-offs. He’s a one-trick pony, who unfortunately for him, hasn’t been all that good at his one trick this season. My suggestion is to keep this particular pony out of the Colts’ stable due to his declining pass rushing prowess.