Philadelphia Eagles: Cam Phillips could be the XFL’s first success story

(Photo by Thomas Campbell/XFL via Getty Images)
(Photo by Thomas Campbell/XFL via Getty Images) /

After a beyond successful stint in the XFL, the Philadelphia Eagles should give Virginia Tech’s Cam Phillips a chance to test his mettle in the NFL.

Despite Vince McMahon’s best efforts, the XFL version 2.0 is officially over. Unfortunately for the WWE’s greatest heel, not over as in ‘over with the crowd’ but over as in finished. Finito. Done.

At least in 2020.

That’s right, for the second year in a row, a Spring football league’s regular season has been prematurely canceled midway through the season, only this time, it’s because of a national pandemic, not a woefully misguided business model.

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AAF, you will be missed.

And to make matters worse, players under contract with the now iced out league officially became free to sign with NFL teams this week, purging the league of the few homegrown stars it cultivated in its second debut season.

Temple turned Houston Roughnecks great P.J. Walker is set to reunite with his college coach, Matt Rhule, in Carolina. Ole Miss signal-caller Jordan Ta‘amu will compete with recently-retained Wyomissing native Chad Henne to back up Patrick Mahomes in KC. Even the NFC East got in on the action, with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins signing Dravon Askew-Henry and Peyton Barber respectfully to two-year deals.

If the Philadelphia Eagles want to get in on the action, might I suggest Walker’s favorite Roughneck target, Cam Phillips?

The most prolific receiver in the 2020 iteration of the XFL, Phillips finished out his potentially only season in Houston with 31 catches for 455 yards. Phillips also scored nine touchdowns, more than twice as many as the league’s WR2 Tre McBride. With precise route running, sure hands, and an innate ability to move the chains on pivotal downs, Phillips looked like a grizzled veteran at the tender age of 24, all the while providing Walker with a reliable target.

Fun Fact, Phillips singlehandedly scored more receiving touchdowns than the Dallas Renegades, the Seattle Dragons, the St. Louis Battlehawks, the DC Defenders, the New York Guardians, and the Tampa Bay Vipers.

While Phillips’ production has to be taken with a slight grain of salt based on the level of competition, it’s not hard to imagine the 6-foot-tall Charlotte native serving as a reliable possession target coming off the bench as a change of pace zone buster.

In a lot of ways, Phillips is very similar to 2019’s breakout older rookie Greg Ward, who also turned a full-time receiving role, in his case with the San Antonio Commanders, into an NFL second chance, a spot on the Eagles’ practice squad, and an eventual elevation to active roster just in time to become the team’s top receiving option down the line.

Like Ward, Phillips went undrafted after a solid four-year career college career. Though he did receive an invite to the 2018 NFL Draft Combine, Phillips was unable to test after undergoing hernia surgery after back-to-back 900-plus yard seasons at Virginia Tech. He was able to run at his pro day, but after recording a woeful 4.87 40 time, he swiftly fell off draft boards the league over.

Phillips latched on with the Buffalo Bills as a UDFA in 2018, but never appeared in a game. He was released in the final roster trim down one summer later and opted to take his talents to the XFL.

Now is Phillips going to blow anyone away with his blistering outside speed? No, even fully healthy, I’d be surprised if he didn’t run in the mid 4.5s, but after watching the Eagles trot out a collection of misfit receivers from all across the league, adding surehanded receivers on bargain-basement contracts has to be a priority.

At only 24-years-old, Phillips is the kind of receiver who could conceivably grow alongside JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Dallas Goedert, and Ward well past the 2020 season regardless of how the Birds address the receiver position in the draft. Phillips also bolsters inside-out versatility, as he predominantly started on the outside with the Roughnecks but projects better in the slot at the NFL level.

Based on Doug Pederson‘s interest in hiring current USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell as his offensive coordinator, the Eagles may be looking to expand their offensive playbooks with some air raid concepts. To do so effectively, Howie Roseman needs to stock up on competent slot options to help spread out the field and attack in space – a role Phillips excelled in both in college and in the XFL.

And unlike Askew-Henry, Ta‘amu, and even his marquee teammate Walker, Phillips can actually impact the game week-in and week-out, even if he only receives a handful of snaps a game in multiple wide receiver packages.

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Is Cam Phillips the kind of player who comes in and instantly transform an offense’s identity? Probably not, but he is an incremental improvement over the jobbers the Philadelphia Eagles were forced to rely on down the stretch in 2019. What more could you want in a team’s fourth, fifth, or even sixth offensive option than a surehanded possession receiver willing to do whatever it takes to continue on playing the game he loves? It seems like a no-brainer to me.