If you were to make a list of the New England Patriots’ most promising young players, it would have to include QB Mac Jones, DT Christian Barmore, and safety Kyle Dugger.
Jones is coming off a strong rookie campaign that saw him finish second to the Cincinnati Bengals’ J’Marr Chase for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Barmore is expected to become a second steady defense in the front 7.
Then there is Dugger. The athletic and hard-hitting safety out of Lenoir Rhyne. Dugger improved from his first season in 2020 to last year’s stats. The 26-year-old went from 64 tackles with one stop for a loss in 14 games. He started in 7 games as a rookie, and he made sure he was prepared ahead of 2021.
Dugger played in 15 games in 2021, starting 13 of the contests. In his second season, Dugger 92 tackles, 5 for a loss, and even 2 QB hits. Dugger also had four interceptions, five tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery.
Despite Dugger’s obvious spike in production, some still believe he is a bit overrated. The Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard placed every Patriots player on a tier. Dugger ranked among the players on the roster who are already Top 10 but who still have a lot to prove. Bedard wrote:
“Skills are unquestioned,” Bedard wrote. “Will he become a more well-rounded player? Right now kind of a one-trick pony going ahead.
How Else Can Kyle Dugger Impact the Game With the Patriots?
While Dugger was strong against the pass, New England would love to see his play against the run improve. According to Pro Football Focus, Dugger was rated just 60.3 against the run in 2021. Compare that to his 75.7 rating while playing in pass coverage, and it seems clear where Dugger can improve.
There may be a few other spots where Dugger could impact the Patriots’ bottom line. Dugger was a superb return man while in college at Lenoir Rhyne. As the Patriots try to find the right person to take over Gunner Olszewski in the return game, they may turn to Dugger at some point.
If Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, nor Pierre Strong Jr. grab a hold of return duties, Belichick could elect to turn to Dugger in an effort to rekindle some of the magic he created in college.
If Dugger were to make himself a force in the kick return game, he would become even more valuable.
Patriots Safety Room is the Best on the Team
The cornerback and offensive line are both question marks for the Patriots heading into the 2022 season. An argument could be made that the wide receiver position deserves a vote or two in this situation.
The safety spot is the one position group with the Patriots that you aren’t likely to hear critiqued. In addition to Dugger, the Patriots also have Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Jabril Peppers, and Josh Bledsoe.
It would not be a shock to see the three of them receive Pro-Bowl consideration between McCourty, Phillips, and Dugger. There is a good balance of speed, toughness, youth, and experience with the Patriots’ safeties.
Dugger is a huge part of the Patriots’ safety group and could have a Pro-Bowl season.