First-round pick Jaelan Phillips on a pass-rushing tear for surging Dolphins

MIAMI -- Jaelan Phillips couldn't think of anything else to do to celebrate his sack of New York Giants quarterback Mike Glennon, so he just did a somersault.

The Dolphins rookie linebacker said he doesn't really plan out his sack celebrations, although teammate Christian Wilkins tells him they're boring.

At this rate, even if he starts planning them out he might run out of celebrations.

Phillips sacked Glennon on back-to-back plays during Sunday's 20-9 win, bringing his season total to 8.5 -- a new Dolphins rookie record. His 7.0 sacks during Miami's current five-game winning streak are the second-most in the NFL behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons' 7.5 over that span. At a time when many rookies hit a wall, Phillips seems to be finally hitting his stride.

"It's incredible. It's a surreal feeling, but honestly it's bigger than me," Phillips said. "I'm just blessed ... to be able to go out there and do what I love and put on for you guys and for the fans and for my teammates, so we're just going to keep doing it."

It's been a journey of sorts to get to this point for Phillips, whom the Dolphins (6-7) selected with the 18th overall pick in this year's draft. He played less than 30% of the team's defensive snaps in its first two games this season as he worked his way back from a groin injury.

The time he spent sidelined this summer made training camp "a blur," Phillips said, but he's grateful for the opportunity to have crawled his way through that patch of adversity.

"It was a learning curve and I got hurt at the very beginning," he said. "I was frustrated with myself because I felt like I wasn't performing the way I needed to for my teammates, but ultimately, like I said, had to go through those rough times to be out the other side, so it was a blessing in disguise."

He's played at least 51% of the snaps in each of the Dolphins' past five games and has played more snaps this season than any other Dolphins linebacker outside of Jerome Baker and Andrew van Ginkel.

Coach Brian Flores said this time of the year is when the game becomes "more taxing" as the NFL season officially extends beyond the collegiate regular season. He wasn't interested in advancing that narrative after Sunday's game. But Flores did say Phillips and his fellow rookies were "sponges," and he feels confident they're ready to handle the final stretch of the season -- starting with Miami's bye week in Week 14.

Phillips' recent surge is no surprise to Flores but rather a culmination of his yearlong efforts.

"I'm seeing the same things that we saw earlier in the year," Flores said. "I continue to say this -- there's a process there, and then I think a lot of people look at the production and think that that's the kind of final analysis of a player, but ... based on some things that I saw already [there are things] that he did better in some instances than some other games.

"We had some production today. We need that. He is doing a good job. He is doing a very good job. We have a lot of guys that are doing a good job that aren't getting the stats, the flash stats, but I think we got a lot of guys playing well, and he is certainly one of them."

The Dolphins, suddenly in the AFC playoff picture, host the New York Jets in Week 15 (Dec. 19) before traveling to face the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football (Dec. 27).

But first, they will take their bye in Week 14, something Phillips is essentially being dragged into after registering 5.0 sacks in his past two games -- the most in the NFL during that span.

To no surprise, the hottest pass-rusher in the league isn't quite ready to stop playing.

"I'm ready to play the next game right now. Let's go," he said. "But the bye week is good. You sit back and re-evaluate the season and do a lot of self-scout, so we're definitely going to be prepared coming out of the bye."