The New England Patriots season has not exactly been full of positive developments, but the emergence of a couple of youngsters has been notable.
Josh Uche has emerged as one of the most effective pass rushers in the entire NFL, compiling 10.5 sacks over a six-game stretch. Rhamondre Stevenson has become New England’s best offensive weapon, compiling 1,295 yards from scrimmage on 243 touches — including a team-high 60 catches through 14 games. Kyle Dugger has continued to be the Patriots’ most versatile defender, emerging as a real candidate to receive a contract extension before his walk year in 2023.
In fact, Dugger has been so good he’s been called the NFL’s most versatile safety by ESPN’s Matt Bowen. Here’s a snippet from Bowen’s article naming the most skilled defensive backs in the NFL.
I always look at the safety spot in Bill Belichick’s defense. You’ll usually see multiple alignments at the second and third levels, sub-package deployment and the ability to play both the run and the pass. That’s Dugger, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound hybrid defender who can patrol deep or spin down. This season, Dugger has logged 109 snaps at safety, 126 in the slot, 45 at corner and 249 as a linebacker/sub-package defender. He has multidimensional traits.
Dugger has been used as a chess piece since his first month in the NFL, where he lined up at four unique positions on four consecutive snaps. It’s his improvement as a pass defender, however, that has really helped him take the next step.
The 26-year-old still isn’t perfect in coverage, but has made strides with each passing game as New England’s designated tight-end stopper. He has two interceptions, six passes defended and a forced fumble in coverage, and has played his usual stellar defense in the box — compiling 63 tackles, four tackles for loss and his first-career sack.
There have been small stretches where Dugger has missed time, but for the most part he’s been everything the Patriots could have asked for when they selected him out of Lenoir Rhyne in 2020. He’s been so good, in fact, that his price continues to rise with each passing game.