Scott Reynolds, of Pewterreport.com is reporting the new linebackers coach Joe Barry revealed the teams linebacking depth chart. In a stunning move, the team has switched Jermaine Phillips from strong safety to weakside linebacker. If Derrick Brooks is not second guessing the teams decision to part ways with him after hearing of this, then it really say more about how far Brooks play slipped over the last few seasons.
MLB : Barrett Ruud, Niko Koutouvides, Rod Wilson
WLB : Jermaine Phillips, Geno Hayes (still recovering from ’08 knee injury), Matt McCoy
SLB : Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Jamall Johnson
In an interview Phillips suggested he would not add weight but will play at his normal playing weight of 225-230 pounds, which makes one ponder if the reason the team gave for releasing such players as Brooks and Cato June was true. As both were not good fits in the new defensive scheme, but moving a player from safety to weakside linebacker who from all accounts is about the same weight as Brooks and June were.
“No I’m going to stay at the weight that I’ve been playing at,” said Phillips. “Around 225 or 230, and play the way I’ve been playing. That is the reason that they wanted me to move after seeing the way I play in the box at the weight that I was.”
“Initially I told them I don’t know if I’ll like it until I try it,” Phillips said. “I love the game of football. I love playing safety, but if I can go and help the team at Will linebacker, and help the team win I’m going to be up for it.
“At this point right now I’m looking at the switch as a switch. There is still a lot for me to learn. A lot to know even if I know what I’m doing at this position, right now I’m a linebacker and that is where I’m staying for the time being.”
“This is kind of a unique deal for me in the sense that I’m new being back here, but I remember Flip when we drafted him in 2002 and him being a little snot-nosed rookie during our Super Bowl year. I have a great relationship with him and a lot of history with him,” Barry said. “I’m excited about it. I really am. I think the things that Jermaine brings to the table are being a physical presence. He’s a guy that can get down there and mix it up, and when we started talking about it, we felt comfortable with it in the fact that we did so much before with our old package with having the safeties in the box. Flip has played such a big role in that the last five or six years. He’s done it from a safety standpoint, let’s see if he can – instead of dropping down into the box – do it four yards off the ball and see if he can play linebacker. With it being the middle of March and if you’re going to experiment with something, now is the time to do it.”
According to Joe Barry the team is still evaluating Phillps at linebacker and stated the process would be an ongoing deal.
“We have time in the sense that the players just came back for the offseason on Monday,” Barry said. “We were on the field for the first time today with the guys for about half an hour. The nice thing with us having a new coaching staff is that we have an early mini-camp. We have a mini-camp the last day of March and the first two days of April. I’ll be able to have in the classroom and get him out on the individual stuff. But in two weeks, we’ll have a team setting in the mini-camp where we’ll actually get a good look at him. We’ll take it day by day. He’s excited about. I know he can do it because we’ve asked him to do it at times playing safety.
“In Jermaine’s defense, I think it’s too hard to part-time anything in this league. Very rarely do you ever have guys that are part-time safeties and part-time linebackers. I don’t think that would be fair to him. Right now, he’s a linebacker. We’ll see where it goes. Maybe a month from now we’ll re-evaluate the situation and we’ll see if we want to keep him there or move him back. He’s a linebacker as far as he’s concerned and we’re concerned.”