After being one of the less-heralded free agency signings this past offseason, Adrian Phillips has emerged as one of the bright spots on the Patriots defense in 2020, leading the team in tackles and posting career highs in snaps played and chipping in two interceptions and the first sack of his career two weeks ago against the Dolphins.
The versatile safety has spent most of the season playing in a pseudo linebacker role, where he's been heavily involved in the action.
"I think it's a great system here that really complements me a lot," said Phillips on New Year's Eve via Webex. "That's not to take away from where I was, that complemented me well too. I think more of it was just having the ability to go out there make a few more checks and being able to put myself in a position to be able to make those plays."
Phillips embraced the Patriots' defensive philosophies that include a new gameplan every single week, something that was foreign to him when he arrived.
"It is different because where I came from it was kind of the offense knew what we were going to do, it was on us to be able to stop it," said Phillips. "Here, having some wrinkles for the game plan, it kept the offense on their toes but it also kept you on your toes as well because you pretty much have to learn something new every week. And it was not necessarily new but you pretty much had to dial into your playbook every week. For some people, that's hard. For a guy like me who loves a challenge, who loves to throw a little wrinkle in there, it made it a lot more fun."
The defensive scheme was just one part of why Phillips has been able to excel in New England, as he struggled to put into words exactly how different things are in Foxborough.
"It's just about mindset here," said Phillips. "It's hard to explain but it's just different.
"We're not having the year that we want but overall the culture, the coaches are still coaching this team, they're still coaching like we're going to the playoffs and we're the best team in the league. The mentality here will never change you can just see that and I saw it from day one and I embraced it."
Though he's third on the team playing 77.8 percent of the defensive snaps, most of them inside the box, his body was holding up well through 15 games.
"It's crazy that I've had the most snaps and most production this year and my body actually feels okay," laughed Phillips. "Hopefully, I'll finish strong with this last game, but overall I've been pretty good."
Though they're out of the playoffs and seemingly have little to play for it was still business as usual for the team, who still has designs on going out on a positive note.
"You just wanna win," said Phillips. "We're doing everything we can to win. As far as it being our last show of the season, you kind of want to get the fans a taste of what they'll get next year.
"It's a chance for us to go out on a high note and get a win and that's all we're thinking about, doing whatever we can to get a win."
Uche and Bower end season with trip to IR
The team reported late on Thursday that Josh Uche and Tashaun Bower's seasons have ended by being placed on Injured Reserve. Both left the game against the Bills and did not return. They've been absent for both practices this week.
This is Uche's second trip to IR this season, having spent all of October out of action. It's a disappointing end for Uche to miss out on the final game that would've likely seen him play an extensive role. He showed promise as a pass rusher and did some good things to build on, recording nine tackles and a sack to go with seven quarterback hits.
Bower was promoted from the practice squad against Kansas City and then was activated to the 53-man roster against the Broncos. He recorded 11 tackles as a run-stopping edge player. He made quite the leap after spending 2019 on the Patriots practice squad and will be a restricted free agent in 2021.
Webex Quotes of Note
Justin Bethel on the chance to play with Matthew Slater:
"It's definitely been a journey and really a pleasure to play with him. He's one of the greatest to ever do it. When I got to the league with Arizona, there's this guy Slater over there, I just gotta keep up with this guy and try to stay on the same level as him. I never thought that we would end up on the same team, it's been really enjoyable watching him make plays and feeding off his energy. Then you add Cody [Davis] in there with us and we've been able to do some special things, it's been fun. When you can play with the greatest special teamers out there, it's a good time."
Joe Thuney on the last game mentality:
"Everyone is working hard, focused and locked in, to go out there and give it all. We got a group of guys that love the game and love playing together and fighting together and we'll fight for it for 60 minutes on Sunday."
Cam Newton on 2020:
"2020, I'm about to tie this year up, put a big knot on it, I can buy every single lock key and throw away all them keys away. I don't wanna see no part of 2020 but it made me a better person. That I do believe. There's something about being a part of this franchise, it's something that you just don't wash away, that aura of being a Patriot."