Patriots

How good can Kyle Dugger be? Patrick Chung sets high bar

Patriots

The torch has been passed at the New England Patriots' strong safety position.

Second-year safety Kyle Dugger changed his jersey number this offseason to No. 23, which became available after veteran Patrick Chung retired from the NFL.

It was a fitting transition, as Dugger is very similar to Chung as a Swiss Army Knife defender who combines a physical style of play with impressive athleticism.

But Chung actually believes Dugger has a higher ceiling than he had during his 12-year NFL career.

Perry: How Dugger can be a game-changer for Pats in Year 2

"I think he can be really good," Chung told NESN.com's Zack Cox on Sunday. "He’s young, he’s raw, he has the size, he has the instincts. He asked me for the number, and I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ I told him to take it over. And I pray to God that he’s way better than I am, because that's only going to help us as Patriots.

"Hopefully he can get to that point. I believe that he can. He has all the intangibles, so I’m praying for that."

The Patriots would be thrilled if Dugger becomes a better player than Chung. A second-round draft pick like Dugger, Chung was a versatile weapon on defense who helped New England win three Super Bowls and was named to the franchise's All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

Dugger is off to a strong start, though: The 25-year-old started seven games and recorded 64 tackles last season compared to Chung's one start and 37 tackles as a rookie in 2009. While veterans Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips sit atop the safety depth chart, Dugger should see even more playing time in Year 2 given his ability to take on multiple defensive assignments.

 

We know one former Patriot who would be rooting for the Lenoir-Rhyne product to take another step forward in 2021.

"Hopefully he can be great and better than me," Chung told Cox. "I really, truly hope for that."