Lining up across from Davante Adams (17) presents a big challenge, but with a benefit for Patriots defensive backs. (Photo by Bob Socci)
Toward the end of Tuesday’s practice opposite the Raiders, Adrian Phillips came off the field to the middle of a sideline full of Patriots teammates and dropped to his hands and toes.
Then he pushed himself up. Once, twice, a third time, then a fourth, continuing until his count reached 25.
“I dropped a pick,” Phillips later explained through his chuckling. “Just got to go finish the plays, those are money balls and you can’t leave those out there, because you don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get.”
Phillips’s woulda, coulda, shoulda interception occurred during a hurry-up period, his final defensive series of the first day of joint workouts at Raiders Headquarters in Henderson, Nev. What ensued was an act of contrition: calisthenics.
His pushups also showed Phillips to be standup guy. Just four nights earlier during the Carolina game, he was the Pats’ vet ordering a rookie cornerback to hit the deck after mishandling a would-be interception.
“You never leave money on the table. If you dropped a pick, your punishment (is) doing push-ups. You do the pushups to make up for it,” says Phillips. “So Jack Jones dropped a pick in the game, and I was like, ‘Hey, I know you’re locked in, but (do) your pushups.’
“You can’t leave that out there. (Interceptions) are game-changing plays.”
Dropping down for pushups after dropping a pick in practice is something Phillips has done since he entered the league as an undrafted San Diego Charger in 2014. As he’s gone from eight defensive snaps as a rookie to 882 last season, Phillips has gotten his hands on more opportunities to seize.
Six of his 11 career thefts have come in his two previous seasons as a Patriot, totaling 30 games and 29 starts. Two of them were in the same contest last fall, in Week 8 versus his former team. One was a massive game-changer, a 26-yard ‘pick six’ off Justin Herbert to give New England a fourth-quarter lead for good.
Though Phillips didn’t get an interception Tuesday, his pass breakup was part of a late lift for the Pats, who were challenged much of the morning on both offense and defense. While Mac Jones ended a very trying practice with a touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne, Phillips’s unit got a rare stop facing Coach Josh McDaniels’s loaded new offense in Las Vegas.
“It’s definitely a positive when you finish the two-minute (period) the way (we) finished it,” Phillips says. “It’s winning time, whether it’s at the end of the half or end of the game. But at the same time, you pick out the focal points of each and every period of practice and say, ‘Hey, we got to be better right here.’”
Going against the likes of Vegas receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, regardless of outcome in that particular period, should make the Patriots’ secondary better. Starting right now.
“Those guys are matchup problems,” Phillips said. “When you go one on one against them, more times than not they’re going to win. I think it was a good test for us to see where we’re at and go up against a solid core group like that and see how they work, how they go about their plays.”