The New England Patriots signed a well-rounded and versatile player in Adrian Phillips to add depth to the safety position.
Although the New England Patriots have the best defensive secondary in the NFL, they were still active in bringing in additional depth to the safety position this season.
In doing so, the Patriots signed veteran free agent Adrian Phillips to a two-year contract one month before the NFL Draft.
Phillips seems to be the prototypical safety that Bill Belichick and the Patriots crave to have in their secondary. At 5’11 and 210 lbs, Phillips has established himself as being an intelligent hybrid safety/linebacker who has displayed exceptional play recognition skills throughout his first six seasons with the Chargers.
After starting a career-high seven games in 2018, Phillips went on to become a First Team All-Pro special teams player as well as getting his first Pro Bowl nod in the same year.
Phillips recorded 94 tackles (four for loss), nine pass deflections, and one interception, as well as being named a starter in 2019 before being placed on IR in the beginning of the season due to a reported broken forearm — but he was able to make a return later in the season.
Phillips offers the Patriots another do-it-all type of player on the team and at the position that can cover any skilled position player, as well as having the ability to quickly stop the run. In fact, everything from Phillips’ game to his overall build is very reminiscent of one of the team’s current starting safeties in Patrick Chung — who is 5’11, 215 lbs.
Despite having a congested cornerback group that includes nine players, the only true safeties on the Patriots roster are Devin McCourty, Chung, Phillips, and Kyle Dugger, the team’s top draft choice in 2020. The addition of a veteran player like Phillips joining a veteran group of McCourty and Chung is going to propel New England’s secondary to even greater heights this season.
Adrian Phillips can be a monster presence on special teams this year
Another element to Phillips is his ability to play on special teams. While playing for the Chargers, he became an All-Pro in 2018, primarily for exceptional special teams coverage. He was often responsible for covering the middle of the field as the up-back on the punt team.
But this is more than another special teams signing for the Pats. Phillips is in New England because he’s a great open field tackler and because he adds depth to the safety position.
While Devin McCourty’s and Chung’s birthdays are only six days apart from each other, both Super Bowl-winning safeties are going to turn 33 years old before the season even starts in September.
Phillips is only 28 years old, is currently in his prime, and is a player who Bill Belichick feels can come in and make an immediate impact on the team.
This is what Patriots captain Devin McCourty had to say about the addition of his new teammate Phillips:
"“Adrian Phillips, we watched when the Chargers made that run in the playoffs. Having all those DBs on the field and him [Phillips] being able to look to play linebacker, play safety, play a bunch of different roles. Overall, that’s us in a nutshell, that’s our defense, that’s our team, having guys who are team-first guys who can play multiple roles to help the team in a bunch of different ways.”"
Lastly, Belichick could be preparing for the future of his defensive secondary with both McCourty twins and Chung on the edge of retirement. Obtaining a player like Phillips could help soften the blow if McCourty or Chung does decide to hang ‘em up for good after the season.
The secondary of the New England Patriots is poised to be the best in the league again this season.