The Cowboys think John Phillips might be a weapon in the passing game this year.
Tight ends coach John Garrett said Phillips is fast enough to get down the field and make himself a deep threat.
“Now he’s the second tight end, he’s going to get a lot more opportunity to play all the different spots, so you will see him running down the field more than he used to, and then get more opportunities in the passing game,” Garrett said after one of the OTA practices last week at Valley Ranch.
Phillips, 6-5, 261, has a little bit of pass-catching history. At Virginia, he caught 48 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns as a senior, the second-best season by a tight end in school history.
But in the NFL, he has only 22 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown.
Then again, his entire 2010 season was wiped out by a preseason knee injury. He was having a strong training camp, pushing for the second tight end spot, but he went down in the first preseason game and spent the entire year on injured reserve.
Now, after coming back last year and playing all 16 games, he’s the clear No. 2 tight end. Garrett said the Cowboys trust the fourth-year player completely.
“You can say, ‘John, go play left, go play right, go play the Z,’ ” Garrett said. “He knows the offense like the back of his hand. He’s really smart and figuring things out. Even the exceptions, the things you might not cover, he figures things out because he knows the system and the rules. He understands it, and he doesn’t memorize it.”
Garrett said Phillips hasn’t shied away from his “promotion” to the No. 2 tight end following the departure of Martellus Bennett.
“Nothing fazes him. He doesn’t freak out at all,” Garrett said. ‘Fine, you want me to do that? Great. I’ll be ready for that. Don’t worry about it. I got it.’ He’s just really confident. He knows his stuff. He works at it. He’s in great shape. You can’t wear him out. He plays and plays and plays.”
But he can really be a downfield guy?
“He’s deceptively fast,” Garrett said. “If you look at him, he’s not that fast, but at the combine, he ran in the 4.7s. He doesn’t look like he’s this smooth, explosive guy. But God, he’s on you, and then he’s by you. In that way, he surprises some defenders.”
-- Carlos Mendez