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Disruptive DT Harrison Phillips off to a good start at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. -- Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips isn't your typical defensive tackle, at least from a statistical standpoint.

It's fairly rare to see college players playing primarily inside along the defensive line to have a stat line of 98 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. That's playing in a Power Five conference, too.

Typically, those defenders in the middle are asked to be space eaters and two-gapers to occupy blockers so linebackers behind them can rack up the tackles. It's far more common to see a linebacker with around 100 tackles. It's not often we see it from a defensive tackle.

That's just how disruptive Phillips can be, and it showed up the first day of practice for the North team at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. In one particular one-on-one rep against Michigan center Mason Cole, Phillips pushed Cole back seven yards into the backfield and put him on his butt.

Phillips (6-3, 304) was dominant in one-on-one pass-rush drills against the offensive linemen on Tuesday. He's a three-time state wrestling champion in the state of Nebraska and the 2013 Junior National heavyweight champion, so he has a terrific ability to use his hands, strength and momentum to his advantage when shedding blockers.

"Probably the biggest box that needs to be checked, the one that's left unchecked, is my pass rush," Phillips said Tuesday. "I had pretty good numbers for a defensive tackle, but I want to show these guys that I'm a lot more athletic than they give me credit for.

"Ultimately, the NFL is becoming a pass-rush game and I want to show these guys I can be disruptive from anywhere they want to line me up."

The Lions certainly have a need in the middle for both a run stopper and backfield disruptor.

Veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said he'd like to return for a 13th NFL season, but he's an unrestricted free agent. We'll have to see if he fits into the plans of the new coaching staff.

Even if Ngata does return, the Lions need to improve their depth at the position. Phillips could be a name that emerges in the middle of the first round, especially if his Pro Day and NFL Scouting Combine go as well as the Senior Bowl week has started for him. Phillips' physical traits – strength, power, quickness – have played a big part in his production, but he also credits his film study as a big reason for his production, which is somewhat atypical of that position.

"I really love the X's and O's," Phillips said. "I really enjoy learning the tendencies. Although the Pac 12 is such a hurry-up tempo offense, I really try to find, 'What's the formation? Where is the running back? OK, I know this play is coming' and anticipate the play before it happens."

Phillips played a lot of nose tackle at Stanford, which makes his production even more impressive. He's looking forward to more of an attacking role this week and at the NFL level.

He's made a quick impression here at the Senior Bowl, and is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on throughout the pre-draft process.

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