New England Patriots: 2 positives at safety in 2023

Kyle Dugger leads a super-strong safety unit
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

This missive completes a series on the major units of the New England Patriots pointing out two positives at every position. The team has good players at every position and the objective was to point them out. It has also been important to point to the deficiencies, as well, where they exist.

The Patriots have several units of top quality as the 2023 season approaches. Units like the edge and cornerbacks on defense are top-shelf. In addition, on the offensive line, the team has addressed the interior line nicely in the draft and they should be fine.

Unfortunately, the offensive tackle position is curiously and dreadfully understaffed. It was under-addressed with real quality players. The New England Patriots added only marginal players to this most important position on the offensive line. The OTs protect the quarterback. Without strength there, the passing game will falter, absent a mobile quarterback who can make up for those deficiencies.

The New England Patriots have one in undrafted free-agent signee, electrifying quarterback Malik Cunningham from Louisville. Hopefully, he was signed to play quarterback. If not, and he's used exclusively as a wide receiver, the team will be missing the boat on an opportunity to vary their offensive attack dramatically.

New England Patriots positives at safety start with Pro Bowler-in-waiting, Kyle Dugger

Safety Kyle Dugger is one of the New England Patriots' best draft picks in recent memory. A second-round selection in 2020, Dugger hasn't disappointed. He's lived up to that lofty draft status and is one of the team's best players. Now entering his fourth season, he has improved significantly and is now one of the team's top defensive backs. He leads an exceptional safety unit that complements the improved cornerback unit nicely.

Unfortunately, like a few other top young players, e.g. Mike Onwenu and Joshe Uche, Dugger is bizarrely still unsigned after this season. That's a huge gaffe. That notwithstanding, the Patriots have Dugger for one more season at least and he's primed to be a Pro Bowl contender in 2023.

The 27-year-old Dugger is a strong safety and at 6'2" tall and 222 pounds he's a force to be reckoned with. Dugger's tackles slipped from 92 in 2021 to 78 in 2022 in 15 games each season. Yet, his trajectory is still generally on the way up.

The hard-hitting safety also has seven interceptions over the past two seasons, proving he's as adept at ball-hawking as he is delivering bone-jarring hits to erstwhile backs and pass-catchers. He's the New England Patriots' best defensive back and he'll be a force in the secondary in 2023. Dugger is the top positive for the Patriots at safety.

New England Patriots second positive and the grade for the safety position in 2023

Having one really good player like Dugger in a unit is terrific, having additional good players alongside him is even better. The New England Patriots second positive at safety is strength in numbers. It's not far-fetched to say that the Pats are loaded at safety. It is arguably one of the top units on the team as well as on the defense.

In addition to Dugger, the Patriots can roll out several solid safeties. Another box safety type is bone-crunching hitter, Jabril Peppers. Peppers had 60 tackles last season and coupled with Duggers' 78, the tandem is rock-solid. And that's not all. The team also has Jalen Mills, the hybrid corner/safety who'll probably be employed at each position, and Adrian Phillips who also had 60 tackles in 2023.

To sum up, the New England Patriots are well-stocked at safety, with a plethora of quality players up and down the list. The Pats have star power in Dugger and great depth to help withstand the inevitable injuries that occur during the long, 17-game season. With this in mind, the unit deserves a top grade and they'll get it. They grade out at a strong A/A- as one of the team's strongest. How do you think the safeties grade out? We'd like to hear.