FOXBOROUGH — It felt like the defense got jobbed.
Just moments after Mac Jones rolled to his left and hit Hunter Henry with a touchdown pass, the 11 Patriots in blue jerseys dropped and banged out some punishment pushups as the offense celebrated Thursday morning.
Considering the defense had forced 10 straight incompletions during the red zone period, it might have been more apropos for the offense to hit the deck.
The Jones-Henry connection came on the final play of practice, however, and according to veteran safety/blue jersey guy Adrian Phillips, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. And it’s a good early lesson for the season.
“Like, we know what’s coming, you know that generally the last two or three plays are going to decide it all,” Phillips said. “And sometimes even the last play — it comes down like that in the game, you might be moving another team the whole game, the whole game. And it comes down to the last play of a hard-fought battle.
“Like, what are you going to do? This play decides the whole game. You might have won for 59 minutes and 59 seconds, but that last second of the game is what really matters. And you see that happen from time to time. And that’s what we want to be right at.”
In the big picture, the defense should be happy with its Day 2 training camp performance, which was capped by the sterling work in the final period when Jones went 1 for 6 and rookie Bailey Zappe went 0 for 4.
What makes it even more impressive is that the defensive backs wore padded mittens to improve technique and prevent them from holding receivers.
Included in that secondary were a bunch of cornerbacks with varied experience who are competing for jobs.
Along with projected starter Jalen Mills, the group includes Terrance Mitchell, Shaun Wade, Malcolm Butler, Joejuan Williams, and rookies Marcus Jones and Jack Jones. Veterans Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant also are in the mix but have yet to practice.
“Super confident,” Phillips said when asked how he feels about the group. “Whoever lines up out there with us, you know that they’re going to bring it. Malcolm, he’s played at the ultimate level. He’s made plays in the ultimate game.
“Even though we’ve got new guys, we know that we’re bringing them along with us and they’re still teaching us new stuff. Like, we’ve still got Malcolm teaching us a whole lot of stuff about different coverages and techniques. So, the confidence is there, and we build off that each and every day.”
Cole Strange plopped himself in at left guard seemingly since the day he was drafted and has looked awfully comfortable — although a clearer picture will emerge when the snap-crackle-and-pop of pads begins next week.
The Patriots’ first-round selection in April’s draft, Strange is aware that some prognosticators panned the pick without ever seeing him take a snap. It didn’t bother the former Tennessee-Chattanooga star one bit.
“No, we didn’t really care too much about that,” Strange said. “We didn’t really pay too much attention to that, honestly.
“You hear it, but it’s kind of one of those things where it’s like, you just tune it out. Focus on my assignment, my job, don’t have to worry about anything else.”
Bill Belichick said Strange has acclimated well and is “one of the first guys in the building every day and last to leave” as he gets up to speed.
“It’s going well,” Strange said. “Tough, but you know, I guess kind of as expected. Just learning a lot right now, making sure I know my assignments.”
Belichick praised the work of former players turned assistant coaches Troy Brown (receivers/returners), Jerod Mayo (linebackers), and Billy Yates (assistant offensive line). “Guys that have been in this system that add a perspective that those of us who haven’t played — they can see things that we don’t see,” Belichick said. “So, they’re valuable people on our staff.” … The day began with Matthew Judon firing up the fans by playing catch with different sections of the bleachers and ended with Mac Jones posing for a picture with a boy celebrating his fifth birthday.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.