How Patrick Chung, Dont’a Hightower Are Helping Patriots Rookies From Afar

Chung and Hightower have remained involved despite their opt-outs

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Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower have not played a down for the New England Patriots this season. But they have helped school two of their rookie replacements.

Safety Kyle Dugger and linebacker Anfernee Jennings — Day 2 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft — said they’ve received guidance from Chung and Hightower, respectively, as they navigate their first NFL campaign.

Chung and Hightower were among the eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“(Chung) definitely still chimes in and helps out,” Dugger said Tuesday in a video conference from the Patriots’ Los Angeles hotel. “(He) gives a lot of tips and things to look for when going into the game. So any time he chimes in, I?m definitely always listening and trying to pick up whatever he?s telling me.”

Chung’s versatility, toughness and physicality allowed him to excel in a hybrid safety/linebacker role for New England. Dugger has taken on many of those same responsibilities of late, starting the Patriots’ last four games and playing more than 70 percent of defensive snaps in each.

Chung’s advice to his team’s top 2020 draft pick?

“Just being patient, especially in coverage,” said Dugger, who’s looked more comfortable in run defense than in coverage thus far. “And just being physical and using whatever tools that or whatever advantages that I have to my advantage.”

Jennings, a third-round pick, has not risen to starter status but has logged 189 defensive snaps as a rotational linebacker, playing both on the edge and off the ball. He’s received valuable insight from Hightower, a fellow Alabama product.

“Our relationship wasn’t temporary,” Jennings said Monday. “I look forward to working with him eventually. Any time I have anything I want to talk to him about or anything he wants to speak to me and give me knowledge about, he don’t hesitate to hit me up, and I don’t hesitate to hit him up. We talk. We have a relationship.

“Guys like Ja’Whaun Bentley and John Simon, LG (Lawrence Guy), those guys also have been great mentors in my development as a rookie. I can’t leave them out. But Dont’a, he’s always been up for me, and I look forward to it.”

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