FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots top 2020 NFL Draft pick Kyle Dugger is making the transition from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne to the NFL look easy.
The second-round pick registered an interception and broke up three passes during team drills Wednesday as he battles veteran safeties Adrian Phillips and Terrence Brooks for a starting spot in the Patriots’ defense in Patrick Chung’s old role.
Dugger is making his way up the pecking order.
There was a five-play stretch during Patriots 7-on-7 drills when Dugger got his hands on the ball three times, picking off Cam Newton and breaking up passes from Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
Here’s everything else we saw at practice:
Absent: WRs N’Keal Harry and Jeff Thomas, linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Derek Rivers, defensive linemen Tashawn Bower and Beau Allen
Physically unable to perform list: RBs Sony Michel and Lamar Miller
Limited: WR Will Hastings, C David Andrews
Stidham: 16-of-25, INT
Newton: 9-of-17, two INTs
QB winner: Stidham by a small margin. He was picked off by cornerback JC Jackson on a passing attempt to wide receiver Damiere Byrd but also threw the best pass of the day on a deep touchdown to Byrd on a post route.
None of the QBs were particularly great, but Stidham started hot and had the best pass.
Newton was picked off by Dugger and linebacker Caash Maluia. Newton simply didn’t see Maluia as he tried to throw a pass in the deep middle of the field as the rookie linebacker was dropping into a zone in the middle of the field and grabbed it.
All three players had incompletions on targets thrown behind receivers. Newton was late on a throw to undrafted receiver Isaiah Zuber that was broken up and almost picked off by Gilmore.
The competition is far from over, but Stidham provides a nice balance of upside and experience in the Patriots’ offense. Newton has the highest ceiling. Hoyer has the most experience in New England.
The Patriots continued to mix up the order on QB reps, making it clear there’s no “starter” right now.
It’s a fascinating battle.
Drops: WRs Julian Edelman and Devin Ross, tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi
Pass breakups: DB Myles Bryant, safeties Terrence Brooks and Kyle Dugger (three), cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson and Justin Bethel
Interceptions: LB Caash Maluia (from Newton), S Kyle Dugger (from Newton), CB JC Jackson (from Stidham)
— Keene extended his arms for a nice catch from Stidham in 7-on-7s. Asiasi elevated over Devin McCourty for a catch in 4-on-4s. Undrafted rookie tight end Jake Burt snagged the ball away from Dugger in 4-on-4s. So, despite the drops, the rookie tight ends made some nice plays.
— Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski ran hot and cold. His first three targets fell incomplete, and he was mad at himself after missing while diving for a deep ball. He later made two nice grabs in team drills including one with Gilmore in coverage.
— With Andrews limited in practice, Joe Thuney and Hjalte Froholdt were able to flash their versatility on the offensive line.
— 5-foot-5, 185-pound running back J.J. Taylor high-pointed a touchdown catch over linebacker Terez Hall. Because of his size, Taylor projects better as a pass-catching back rather than a between the tackles runner.
— Asiasi, Edelman, running backs James White and Damien Harris and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu saw some increased opportunities working with quarterbacks during special teams drills.
Photo via David Silverman/New England Patriots