How will Patriots adjust vs Bills with Kyle Dugger now likely out?
At this point we’re not entirely sure, but the New England Patriots will likely be without safety Kyle Dugger on Monday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Awful timing. Monumental loss. Dugger’s been a do-it-all Swiss Army knife safety in Bill Belichick’s defense and has really shined in his second NFL season.
Remember when everyone questioned why the Patriots used their first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft on a player out of Division-II Lenoir-Rhyne?
Yup, nobody’s asking anymore. They know the answer.
It’s because Belichick and Co. are elite when it comes to finding under-the-radar talent. Dugger’s been so valuable in his second year that we actually can’t believe how big of a loss this feels like it already is.
He’s used in so many different looks and has proven to be a sure tackler, aggressive disruptor, and ball hawk. Not to mention, he plays a ton of snaps on special teams, which means another element of the game will suffer if he’s out.
Kyle Dugger likely missing Monday Night Football is a big loss for the Patriots.
Luckily, Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips still exist, and Phillips plays a much similar role to Dugger’s. The only problem is that Belichick deploys both Phillips and Dugger at the same time, meaning Phillips’ presence isn’t going to solve all the issues here. Just look at the numbers:
"“Dugger is third among all NFL safeties with 290 snaps in the box this season, according to PFF. Phillips is fifth (259). Phillips is second in the league among safeties in terms of his edge snaps — at the end of the line of scrimmage — with 106. Dugger is 11th (48),” wrote Phil Perry of NBC Sports.“But Dugger (37) and Phillips (34) are also No. 2 and No. 3 among safeties in terms of their snaps as boundary corners. Headed into Thursday’s game, according to NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah, they both had seen extensive time in the slot (Dugger 25 percent, Phillips 18 percent) and at free safety (Phillips 25 percent, Dugger 17 percent) as well.”"
Our guess? Jalen Mills, who has the capability to play this hybrid safety role, will shift over from cornerback and join Phillips. McCourty will take on his usual duties. Perhaps we see rookie Shaun Wade, who was acquired from the Ravens before the season started, and Myles Bryant log more snaps at cornerback. Wade logged 11% of the snaps against the Titans and Bryant contributed 27%.
Then again, because the Patriots are playing a pass-heavy team like the Bills, perhaps they won’t need to make steep adjustments with Dugger out. Over the last few weeks, Dugger has really shined against teams with lackluster passing games — Panthers, Browns, Falcons and Titans. The Patriots might find themselves going with more cornerbacks, especially since the Bills don’t boast a prominent threat at tight end.
Losing Dugger for any game is a problem, but given this matchup the Patriots might not be scrambling as badly as you might’ve thought.