Below average is a perfectly acceptable way to describe the New England Patriots’ 2020 season. Posting a record below .500 for the first time in nearly two decades, it’s safe to say that many Patriots players didn’t play up to the standards that many had become accustomed too.
Some players, however, did manage to live up to or even exceed that standard.
Kyle Dugger, the Patriots’ top draft pick in 2020, was able to fully incorporate himself into the New England defense and become a full time starter at multiple positions by season’s end. Surely he would agree that he had a really good start to his NFL ca... Wait, what's that? He said the exact opposite in his media availability on Thursday? Well then.
“Below average,” were the words used by Dugger when asked to reflect on his rookie season.
“It was still fun to get the experience and be out there but it wasn’t a great year.” the 25-year-old said.
“Just being comfortable ... having that trust and the feeling of being able to play fast,” are some of the things that Dugger believes he can bring to the table in Year 2 that were missing from his game as a rookie.
Although Dugger’s assessment of his own game wasn’t exactly glowing, teammate Adrian Phillips had no qualms with comparing him to his former Los Angeles Chargers teammate Derwin James, who was named an All-Pro in his rookie season.
“I try to listen to [my veteran teammates] for everything. Soak up everything they’re telling me and showing me,” said Dugger. “I can’t say specifically what I'm showing them but playing hard and not letting anything slow me down.”
On the addition of some talented veteran teammates, Dugger shared the value in mixing experience and youth on the field.
“It’s great to have that experience around you, in every aspect,” he said. “The mentality doesn’t change, it’s just always about making sure you’re focused and locked in. But being able to look anywhere and everywhere for experience and get help from guys like that in the locker room is huge.”
When asked if he’s felt improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, Dugger said that it would be like “Night and day. Just looking at film from the first couple days it’s a big difference. I look like a completely different player. That’s great to see and I can feel that as well.”
What has made such a difference for him?
“Everything,” he explained. “Just the comfortability, the urgency, knowing where I need to be and being there on time, communication. There’s a big difference in my pace as a player.”
Even though Kyle Dugger said that he doesn’t have any expectations for himself, it is safe to say that Patriots fans will. Dugger fully believes that he is far ahead of where he was in 2020. If he is correct, New England due for a huge season from the second-year player.