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The Film Room: Is Scottie Phillips A Diamond In The Rough?

Can he carry Arian Foster’s undrafted free agent running back lineage forward in Houston?

Arkansas v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Texans added some much needed talent in the 2020 NFL Draft. I’m excited for Ross Blacklock, Jonathan Greenard, Charlie Heck (not really), John Reid and Isaiah Coulter to develop and show what they’ve got. However, let’s not forget about those that weren’t drafted yet still signed by the Texans.

From Houston’s crop of undrafted free agents, there were a couple of names that intrigued me, and none more than running back Scottie Phillips from Ole Miss. Phillips measured in at 5’8” and 209 lbs. His athletic testing was fairly pedestrian: a 4.56 40 yard dash, 29 bench press reps (wow!), 30” vertical jump, 114” broad jump, a 7.4 three cone drill, and a 4.53 20 yard shuttle. Other than the crazy number of bench reps, nothing really stands out.

At first glance, I didn’t have any reason to be interested in Phillips, but there was an odd feeling deep in my gut. Simply because I saw that he was a running back. I thought, is this the next Arian Foster? I’m sure we’ve all thought this before. Last year it was potentially Karan Higdon or Damarea Crockett. This year, I have the same unwarranted excitement. I’ve been fiending for the next great Texans running back since Foster left. Surprisingly, Alfred Blue did not quench my thirst.

The first thing I noticed about Phillips is that he’s electric. He’s quick with his cuts and looks like he is bursting with energy, just waiting to hit the open field and fly away. Here Phillips (#22) presses the line of scrimmage and then notices the linebacker (#40) unblocked in his gap. Phillips quickly cuts away from him and through the open lane. He is met by the safety (#10), but plants his foot inside, cuts outside, and shoves his hand into the safety’s facemask, throwing him into the dirt. Phillips is greeted with tons of open field and he takes advantage. While he isn’t a speedster, he outruns new Seahawks first round linebacker Jordyn Brooks (#1) and dives into the end zone for the touchdown.

I love how Phillips changes his pace throughout this run. He quickly hops around the backfield, reading his blocks and the defense.

On this run, once he makes it to the second level, Phillips notices the safety coming downhill. He slightly slows down and hesitates, then explodes inside and evades the tackle. Once Phillips is in the open field, it looks like he is shot out of a cannon. No one comes close to catching him this time, as he scampers into the end zone.

This is more of that great change of pace. I love how patient Phillips is. He reads his pulling offensive linemen. At first he is leading the run outside, but he notices both his offensive linemen (#79 and #74) make their blocks nicely. This opens up a lane which Phillips sees quickly. He plants his outside foot and cuts upfield in a hurry. He quickly accelerates, makes two cuts, and simply runs through the defender’s (#26) poor tackle attempt.

Phillips is just so good at setting up his blocks, specifically pullers. He is patient behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for things to develop. He starts his run outside but notices the linebacker (#30) has the edge on him. He slowly presses the line of scrimmage and gives his tight end (#9) enough time to make a block on the linebacker. Then he jump stops and cuts inside. He avoids some defenders and lowers his head into the safety (#14). This is only a three yard gain, but it could’ve been a loss of yards if not for his patience, vision, and tough running.

This looks very Arian Fosterish to me. Phillips is patient in waiting for his blocks to develop and then jump cuts inside in one fluid motion. He makes a quick cut to evade the incoming safety (#15) Xavier McKinney. He then plants his outside foot and explodes off of it, cutting inside to evade the CB (#7) Trevon Diggs. Phillips could’ve easily been tackled behind the line of scrimmage, but thanks to his vision and elusiveness, he gets a massive gain.

Phillips makes a quick cut to avoid the traffic in the middle of the line of scrimmage. It’s a subtle cut, but it’s the only cut he needed. He shoots through the middle of the field and has defenders on either side of him. They try to bring him to the ground, but you can’t tackle Phillips up high like this. He keeps moving his feet and drags the defenders into the end zone.

Phillips is great at this one-cut running style, just like Foster. He avoids the initial penetration with a small cut and then plants his inside foot and explodes off of it. He flies up field and gets skinny between the line of scrimmage. Phillips doesn’t have elite speed, so he gets caught before the end zone.

I’m not saying Phillips is Arian Foster; no one is. But Phillips’ his vision and cutting ability sort of remind me of Foster’s game. Phillips is very quick to process what’s in front of him. He had to deal with a lot of bad blocking at Ole Miss, but he made the most of it because of his mental processing. Here he sees his left guard (#79) losing his block, so he quickly cuts to his left, avoiding trouble. Next, his left tackle (#74) is losing his block too, so he makes another quick cut to his left and finds open field for a big gain.

Phillips isn’t a track star. He’s not going rip off a 99-yard touchdown anytime soon. What he lacks in long speed, he more than makes up for in vision, elusiveness, and agility. I like his ability to turn a bad situation into a good one. What is often a two yard loss for many running backs turns into a 5, 8 or 15 yard gain for Phillips. His quick mental processing of blocks and the defense in front of him means he doesn’t have to depend on a good run blocking offensive line.

Phillips may not end up leading the Texans in rushing yards. He may not be a Hall of Fame running back. He may not be the next Arian Foster. However, I think Houston might’ve found something here. He has more talent than current Houston running back Buddy Howell, I can guarantee that. I’d expect Phillips to show out in training camp, play well in preseason, and work his way onto the 53-man roster once the 2020 regular season arrives.