Famous Patriots Bust Shines in Preseason Performance With the Panthers

Getty Duke Dawson

Sometimes, a guy just needs a change of scenery.

The New England Patriots selected cornerback Duke Dawson in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Florida. Dawson was expected to become a starter early in his career and perhaps even a star.

None of that happened.

Before the Patriots shipped Dawson and a seventh-round pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a sixth-rounder, the talented but unproductive cornerback failed to play in a game during his rookie season with the Patriots.

Without exaggeration, the Patriots got nothing from Dawson during his brief time in Foxborough. Dawson is one of the biggest draft busts in Patriots history. Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton ranked him number one on a similarly dubious list.  Unfortunately for him and Denver, the Broncos didn’t get much out of him in two seasons in the Mile High city.

Dawson played in 26 games with four starts. He never recorded an interception, made 27 tackles, defended two passes, and recovered one fumble. Dawson missed all of the 2021 season with a torn ACL before the Broncos released him.

He was signed by the Carolina Panthers and given a chance to revive his career. So far, he’s doing well with his opportunity.

Duke Dawson Shines in Carolina’s Preseason Opener

Dawson played a nice role in the Panthers’ 23-21 win over the Washington Commanders in the preseason opener. Dawson had an interception in the red zone in the closing minutes of the first half off another former Patriots player, Taylor Heinicke (2017 practice squad). As you can see from the video below, the pass was massively overthrown, and Dawson was in the right place at the right time.

Dawson also had two pass breakups and four tackles as he attempts to solidify himself a spot on the 53-man roster. While the success is relatively low for a player drafted in the second round who should be in the prime of his career, it’s a new beginning for a player who has failed to make a mark at his first two stops in the NFL.

How Did the Rest of the Patriots’ 2018 Draft Picks Work Out?

The 2019 NFL Draft was disastrous for the Patriots. Besides Damien Harris and punter Jake Bailey, the team got next to nothing from the rest of their selections, WR N’Keal Harry included. They did sing undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers that year, but almost none of the picks panned out.

Dawson’s 2018 class was better, but only a little. The Patriots got Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn in the first round. That was a solid haul, considering the former played a solid role in the team winning Super Bowl LIII. Michel had 18 rushes for 94 yards and a TD in the 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Wynn didn’t play as a rookie because of injury, but he has been a consistent starting left tackle since the 2019 season. Dawson was picked in the second round, and the Patriots didn’t have another selection until the fifth when they drafted linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley. Things started slowly for Bentley, but he has become a starting inside linebacker in the last two seasons and is expected to play a major role in 2022. Sixth-round pick Christian Sam didn’t play for the Patriots and has yet to appear in an NFL game though he is still chasing the dream with the Dallas Cowboys.

New England took Braxton Berrios with the next pick in the sixth round, and they squandered a chance to develop their next good slot receiver and dangerous return man. After being stuck on the Patriots practice squad in 2018, Berrios landed with the rival New York Jets in 2019 and has developed into a capable receiver and an All-Pro return man. He scored five TDs in 2021, including a 102-yard kick return.

The Patriots drafted QB Danny Etling, CB Keion Crossen, and tight end Ryan Izzo. None of those three are with the Patriots or making noise elsewhere, though Etling had a few moments for the Green Bay Packers in their preseason opener.

Perhaps he can make the most of a second or third opportunity outside of New England as well.

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