Safety Adrian Phillips is only entering his second season with the New England Patriots, but the contrast between his year one campaign and his sophomore year has been obvious from day one of training camp.
He noticed the difference it makes in training camp having fans in the stands. He said that last season was tough due to COVID and that he was unable to get the full New England experience.
Phillips brought up the change in energy and competition level in his post-practice media session Thursday.
"That's what makes it fun," he said. "It's just competition. Whoever is out there, you know that everyone is competing for a spot. The competition level is just higher. It's fun."
That doesn't mean there was no competition in 2020, though Phillips acknowledged that in year two in the Patriots system, he's able to build further relationships and build camaraderie.
Bill Belichick always expects his players to make a significant jump forward in their progress in their second season. Phillips should have no problem with that, especially since he's a seasoned veteran.
"Glad we have him," Belichick said. "Adrian is a good football player. It was great to sign him last year. He played well for us. I think he learned a lot about our system."
Phillips played six seasons with the Chargers before signing with the Patriots as a free agent in 2020.
"He seems comfortable with everything we've asked him to do," Belichick said. "He's done a great job with communication. He's got good football instincts."
On day one of camp, Phillips found himself covering both star tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in red-zone drills. He played extremely well. He broke up a pass intended for Smith and intercepted a throw behind Henry by Newton. Phillips also challenged a pass intended for Henry on a corner/out pattern.
It was a new day with the same results on day two of camp. Phillips once again had a pass breakup while covering his old Chargers teammate Hunter Henry.
Phillips started all 16 games last season for the first time in his NFL tenure. He led the team with 109 tackles and seven tackles for loss. It's still very early in training camp, but all signs point to another impactful season from the Texas Longhorns standout judging by the first two days of practice.