The first position battle is actually two players who were both on the roster last season. However, Harrison Phillips suffered a knee injury early in the year that cost him the season. The reviews early for Phillips was that he was on his way to a breakout season and the hope is he can pick up right where he left off.
If he is going to win the one-technique defensive tackle job, he will have to surpass Star Lotulelei, who is returning to Buffalo with a restructured contract. He was one of the first big free agent signings for Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane when they gave him a five-year, $50 million contract in 2018.
He certainly has a role in this defense plugging up the middle of the line and allowing the playmakers, like Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, fly free to the ball carrier to make the play. The difference is that Harrison Phillips can do that as well but also provide some pass rush that Lotulelei doesn’t provide.
It seemed like Harrison Phillips was trending towards getting the starting job last year and if the knee is fully recovered, he could finally surpass Lotulelei in 2020.