Early this morning, the New England Patriots signed safety Patrick Chung to a two-year extension. The Patriots create almost $1 million in cap space while locking up an important veteran for their defense.
Still, the move raised some eyebrows due to the fact that the Pats used their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on safety Kyle Dugger (who just so happened to sign as well). So with Chung -and Devin McCourty– locked up for two more years, why would Belichick take a safety with New England’s top pick? Especially a division II one at that?
Talked to a scout from an AFC North team about #Patriots 2nd rounder Kyle Dugger. He told me they had the D2 safety rated highly and that “the dude is a physical freak.” Admits the jump in comp will be a challenge but he went “right about where he should have.”
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) April 27, 2020
First of all, the questioning of the pick of Dugger is bonkers. Fans have trusted Belichick throughout his tenure as coach (minus the Malcolm Butler Super Bowl thing), but now it’s time for fans to question Belichick? After he has already won SIX Super Bowls as the man in charge? It makes no sense.
Secondly, Belichick has a plan for Dugger. The safety isn’t going to be the third safety behind Chung and McCourty: Dugger will see the field. That may be hard to believe, but when is the last time the Patriots did not give their top pick playing time right out of the chute? Even Laurence Maroney got 175 carries when he first got to the league.
No one knows other than Belichick how he will use Dugger to start, but it has to be assumed that Dugger will be some form of Swiss-army knife, similar to that of Jamie Collins.
With Collins now in Detroit with his former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the Patriots are lacking that hybrid type linebacker to cover tight ends, bring pressure up the middle, etcetera. Dugger can fit that role for New England due to both his size and playmaking ability.
If you check out this clip from the Senior Bowl below, Dugger looks more than competent covering tight ends at practice.
Kyle Dugger put on a show at the Senior Bow.
What can we expect from the safety out of Lenoir-Rhyne?
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) May 2, 2020
His experience as a safety and 6’3″ frame make it easy for him to cover slower, but bigger, weapons on opposing offenses.
Last season, Pro Football Focus credited Jamie Collins with a coverage grade of 74.8 and a pass rush grade of 77.7. As a “linebacker” those were his specialties. He wasn’t the run stuffer that Dont’a Hightower was / continues to be for the Patriots. Collins was the athlete on defense that Belichick could move around.
There is a reason that Collins hasn’t had a great career outside of New England and it’s because his former team (the Cleveland Browns) did not know how to use him. He has never been that prototypical middle linebacker, but thats what the Browns saw him as. It doesn’t really fit his skillset: a skillset that is very similar to the DII safety Kyle Dugger.
Dugger may end up replacing the aforementioned safeties, Chung and McCourty, whose retirements appear to be on the horizon, but as of now that isn’t the case. Dugger will be used as a weapon on defense however Belichick sees fit, and, being the freak athlete he is, Dugger will definitely be making an impact next season.
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-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)