The 5 most important players on the New England Patriots for the 2023 season

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Kyle Dugger

Arguably one of the most underrated players on the entire roster, Kyle Dugger has become an integral part of the defense over the last three years.

After Devin McCourty's retirement, his role on the Patriots becomes even more critical this upcoming season. Because of his unique versatility, he will inevitably help ease the growing pains of overcoming the veteran's absence and take on a more vital part as an emerging leader of the defense.

Since the 2023 season is a contract year for Dugger, it wouldn't be surprising to see his best season to date. His progression since being drafted in 2020 has been nothing short of impressive, particularly as a questioned Division II player.

Through those three seasons, he has totaled 234 combined tackles (11 for a loss), four quarterback hits, seven interceptions returned for 155 yards and two touchdowns, plus two fumble recoveries returned for 59 yards and a score.

Building upon that won't be easy, but it's clear Dugger has all the capabilities to do so, and he likely will as the Patriots' defense is projected to continue their dominance this season.

Now that he has become an essential part of the secondary, his influence and usage will be fun to watch each week. He's made a name for himself covering some of the league's best tight ends, and he will surely continue that this year.

But what else will he add to his repertoire?

With the void left by McCourty, Dugger will have an opportunity to make himself even more essential to the defense's success from his overall performance and adaptability.

If he can add even the tiniest smidge to his game to end any lingering questions regarding his importance to the team this year, we should expect Belichick to throw him the bag and make him a Patriot for years to come.