The New England Patriots need offensive and defensive playmakers and a recent first-round pick has been pegged as the team’s next superstar.
According to Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport, the Patriots’ Kyle Dugger is the one safety in the NFL ready to make the jump to superstardom in 2022. Dugger was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft.
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In each of Dugger’s seasons in the NFL, he has made strides both statistically and from an impact standpoint. As a rookie in 2020, Dugger didn’t have an interception, but he made 64 tackles in 14 games and 7 starts.
In 2021, Dugger transitioned to be a full-time starter. He started 13 of the 15 games he played and picked off 4 passes. Dugger also had a fumble recovery in addition to 92 tackles, 5 for a loss.
Based on this trajectory, Davenport’s projections are at the very least on the right track. The Patriots will ask a ton of Dugger as he shares the secondary with a group of cornerbacks who don’t look like the strength of the Patriots roster.
If Dugger raises his interception total and takes on more responsibility as a leader of the Patriots defense, he will likely make good on Davenport’s prediction.
Don’t Sleep on Rhamondre Stevenson
Dugger is a great candidate for a breakout season, but on the offensive side of the ball, fans should keep their eyes on second-year running back Rhamondre Stevenson. After his rookie season got off to a rocky start, Stevenson produced solid numbers.
In just 12 games, in which he started just twice, Stevenson rushed for 606 yards and 5 TDs while sharing carries with Damien Harris. Stevenson also showed he could catch the ball a bit out of the backfield. He made 14 receptions for 123 yards. Harris is coming back in 2022, but there is every reason to believe Stevenson’s numbers will climb in his second season.
Assuming he is healthy for more than 12 games–which is always a tough assumption to make with a running back–Stevenson should have even more opportunities.
Is this a year the Patriots could have two running backs eclipse the 1,000-yard mark? That’s a long shot. New England fans would probably settle for having one player hit that benchmark.
The last Patriots running back to go over 1,000 yards was LeGarrette Blount who did it in 2016. Before his rookie season, Stevenson did draw some comparisons to Blount, so we’ll see.
Don’t Sleep on Christian Barmore
One of Dugger’s defensive running mates is another young Patriot to watch in 2022. Defensive lineman Christian Barmore played in all 17 games as a rookie in 2021. He started two contests and while he had only 1.5 sacks, his impact was felt with QB pressures and run stuffing.
Barmore had 9 quarterback hits and 3 tackles for loss. Tarringo Basille-Vaughan of Chowder and Champions predicts Barmore will make the jump to the Pro Bowl in 2022.
That’s not a crazy thought, however, the Patriots’ defense overall would have to be solid on all three levels for Barmore to gain that recognition. Because Barmore isn’t likely to turn into a premier pass rusher with eye-popping sack numbers, he’s more likely to be recognized as a crucial piece of an overall strong Patriots defense rather than a standout individual performer.
In any case, 2022 could be a year when multiple young Patriots players turn the corner.
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