The story of the New England Patriots’ 2020 offseason was one of high-profile departures — from quarterback Tom Brady, to long-time assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia, to a league-leading eight Covid-19 opt-outs. Amidst all the turmoil, however, the team also brought some players in who went on to play prominent roles during the season.
Among them was safety Adrian Phillips. Arriving on a two-year contract after starting his career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Phillips played all 16 of New England’s games and finished as the club’s leading tackler and second-most productive ball-hawk with two interceptions.
While listed as a safety, he also proved himself a do-it-all defensive back.
Now heading into his second season as a Patriot, Phillips has a simple goal in mind: become even more versatile. He spoke about just that during a press conference earlier this week when asked about his level of comfortability moving between spots.
“I have to be comfortable. I’m one of the guys that, when you ask me what position I play I say, ‘I play defense,’” he said following the Patriots’ joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.
In 2020, Phillips already wore numerous hats for the Patriots’ defense. He was used primarily as a “star” defender, blurring the lines between box safety and off-the-ball linebacker. The former rookie free agent furthermore moved into free safety alignments, perimeter and slot cornerbacks spots, and even aligned on the defensive line on a regular basis. He also was a four-unit special teamer.
Wherever New England needed additional bodies, Phillips stepped up. With his second regular season with the club under a month away, the projection is that he will be used similarly within the team’s defense and offer high-quality play alongside fellow starting safeties Devin McCourty and Kyle Dugger.
While Phillips’ future within the organization is uncertain beyond 2021, he appears to be a realistic candidate for an early contract extension — especially if the 29-year-old successfully builds on his first year in the system. His goal is to do just that, and provide more value to the defense as a whole.
“I want to be able to line up everywhere and most importantly, I want to be able to produce everywhere,” he said on Tuesday. “So, I have to make sure that I’m comfortable and that’s what I was doing this offseason: just making sure that I’m being able to line up in those different spots, getting multiple reps. Even if I don’t get a lot of reps in practice, if they call it in a game I’m ready to go.”