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Wade Phillips returns to Dallas hoping Rams D can change its tune

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Wade Phillips, the unlikeliest of Twitter experts, is actually a pretty big fan of Drake and Future. Yes, Drake and Future. The rappers. One of his favorite songs is their popular collaboration entitled "Big Rings." Phillips, 70, will intermittently reference lyrics from it.

During media day for Super Bowl LI, Phillips was asked about wearing his Denver Broncos Super Bowl ring and said, "I've got a really big team, and they need some really big rings." When Aaron Donald ended his holdout and attended his first practice with the Los Angeles Rams, Phillips, in his 26th season as an NFL defensive coordinator, walked by a reporter and said, "What a time to be alive."

"He likes Future," Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster said of Phillips, "but he likes more of the Drake."

Another part of that Future-Drake song fits Phillips' current situation:

You and yours/versus me and mine./Are we talkin' teams?/Are we talkin' teams?/Oh you switchin' sides?/Wanna come with me?

Phillips heads back to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this weekend, an opponent at AT&T Stadium for the first time since being fired as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach midway through the 2010 season. He has since switched sides. Now it's the Cowboys and their potent offense, versus Phillips and his talented-yet-struggling defense. Yes, we're talking teams. (Last one, I promise.)

"The good thing about Texas is there’s no taxes," Phillips said. "But they still charge you that California tax when you go to Texas, so I don’t understand that deal. That’s another story. Yeah, we spent some good years there. I enjoyed being there, worked hard for three and a half years there, and it was a big part of my life at the time. It still is. I have fond memories.”

Phillips was hired as Cowboys head coach in 2007 and led the team to two playoff appearances and 33 regular-season victories in his first three years, signing an extension through 2011 shortly after the 2009 season. But then the Cowboys started 2010 with a 1-7 record and Phillips was fired by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, which Phillips detailed in his book, "Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football And Life."

Phillips, who plugged the book a couple of times during Thursday's news conference, said Jones "was good to me" and dismissed the idea that his Cowboys stint ended on a bad note.

"Most of the teams in the league, it didn’t end well with me," Phillips said. "If I had a vendetta against any team that fired me, I’d have about a quarter of the league."

Phillips' main concern is how his defense matches up against an offense that is still basically run by Jason Garrett, who served as Phillips' offensive coordinator and later replaced Phillips as Cowboys head coach. Phillips' defense allowed a combined 806 net yards against the Redskins and 49ers in back-to-back games and now faces a Cowboys offense that ranked fifth in the NFL in points last season.

The Rams' defense entered the season expecting to be an elite unit, but that has only been the case against a shorthanded Colts team in the season opener.

"We’re going to be all right," Phillips said. "We’re getting better."

The Rams (2-1) will get a boost with Webster returning, but they might not have free safety Lamarcus Joyner, who didn't participate in their two most recent practices because of a hamstring injury. Phillips was encouraged by the Rams limiting the 49ers to 3.4 yards per carry last Thursday, four days after allowing the Redskins to rush for 229 yards on only 39 carries. But the Rams still allowed 39 points to a 49ers team that didn't score a touchdown in its first two games.

Strong safety Maurice Alexander believes the Rams "have to be more detailed," but that has nothing to do with getting acclimated to Phillips' 3-4 defense.

"It's us," Alexander said. "It's us as a defense. Wade's coaching everything the right way, and we've just got to go out there and execute."

Phillips is encouraged by the turnovers, with the Rams coming within three yards of returning three interceptions for touchdowns through the first three weeks. He called Sunday's visit to Dallas (2-1) a "premier challenge" because the Rams will be facing a Cowboys offense without any discernible weaknesses.

"We look at it as a big challenge," Phillips said. "I think we’ll see a lot about our team this week as far as where we are, to match up with that premier offense."

The only Cowboys who remain from Phillips' time there are tight end Jason Witten, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, long snapper L.P. LaDouceur, linebacker Sean Lee and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys drafted Bryant leading up to what became Phillips' last season with the team, and Bryant, dripping sweat, gave Phillips a big bear hug moments before this year's preseason opener between the Rams and Cowboys. "Thanks, Dez," Phillips told him sarcastically.

Phillips has only been back to AT&T Stadium once since being fired. It was as a fan in 2014, the year he took a break from the NFL, to watch the Cowboys face the Redskins, who had Sean McVay as the offensive coordinator and Phillips' son, Wes, as tight-ends coach. Of course, he posted a tweet ...