We’re back to appreciate a Chargers player of the past and I think you’ll rather enjoy this trip down memory lane. It’s no secret that this team loves a good pass-rusher. The franchise has enjoyed the pairing of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa over the last four years and before that they had Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, with the latter being the subject of today’s throwback profile.
Phillips committed to Purdue University as a tight end prospect out of Willingboro High School in New Jersey. He actually chose Purdue because he wanted the chance to catch passes from Drew Brees but that dream unfortunately never came to fruition as Phillips sat out the 2000 season due to low standardized test scores.
Following his forced redshirt, Phillips was flipped to the defensive side of the ball and was an instant contributor as he won a starting job at defensive end. Over his first three seasons, each ending in Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors, Phillips amassed 19 total sacks. As a senior in 2003, he exploded for 14.5 sacks, bringing his school-record total to 33.5. His 60.5 tackles-for-loss were good for third in school history. He was named a Second-Team All-American in his final season and wound-up starting 49 consecutive games for the Boilermakers. To top it all off, he did eventually catch a couple touchdown passes in goal-line situations, they just weren’t from Brees like he had hoped.
Phillips was selected by the Chargers in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft with the 98th-overall pick. He had a great showing at the NFL Combine where he measured in at 6’3 and 255 pounds. His 4.69 forty was a solid number for an edge rusher but it was his 6.56 3-cone drill that caught everyone’s eye. Since 2006, when NFL.com started recording the combine results, Phillips’ mark is still the single-best time for any defensive linemen or linebacker. The guy was a pure edge rusher in the truest sense.
While obviously talented, Phillips didn’t earn a starting job from the start. He rotated in as a situational pass-rusher, recording four sacks as a rookie, good for second on the team. In 2005, his first with Shawne Merriman, he posted 7.0 sacks. After former starting outside linebacker Steve Foley was shot in an altercation with an plain-clothes police officer, Phillips stepped into a starting job for the first time. He played in 14 games, setting a career-high in sacks, tackles-for-loss, pass breakups, with 11.5, 12.5 and six, respectively.
His 2007 season was another successful campaign has he contributed another 8.5 sacks and picked off his first two passes of his career, returning one for a touchdown. In 2009, Phillips posted a just seven sacks, his lowest mark since his rookie season, but led the NFL with seven forced fumbles. His 2010 season was arguably his most disruptive yet as he posted another 11 sacks and a whopping 17.5 tackles-for-loss and seven pass breakups with another interception returned for a touchdown. He was also finally named to his first Pro Bowl, as well for his performance that year.
The following year in 2011, Phillips struggled with a lower-body injury and it was reflected in his stats. He played in just 12 games and managed a career-low 3.5 sacks. He still managed to be productive in other areas, picking off two passes and breaking up five more with eight tackles-for-loss.
His final year in San Diego was him getting back to his old ways. He tallied 9.5 sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and three pass breakups.
Phillips finished his time in San Diego as one of the most versatile players to ever grace the Chargers’ defense. His final numbers are as follows:
- 108 starts in 136 games
- 477 total tackles
- 80 tackles-for-loss
- 69.5 sacks
- 20 forced fumbles
- 10 fumble recoveries
- One scoop-n-score
- Six interceptions
- Two Pick-6s
- 41 pass breakups
Is it too much to say that Phillips was the first rendition of Melvin Ingram on the Chargers’ defense? He was able to move from a traditional defensive end at the collegiate level only to make it as one of the best stand-up pass-rushers during the 2000’s. He was nothing but productive in a variety of ways, making him one of the best defenders this team has had in arguably the last 20 years.
What are some of your favorite moments from Phillips career? Where would he rank among past Chargers defenders? Let’s get to sharing some memories in the comments.