Rodney Harrison discusses his role in Kyle Dugger’s development

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One of the brightest young players on the New England Patriots’ roster is Kyle Dugger.

It was clear he had sky-high potential when the Patriots used their first pick in the 2020 draft on a DII safety. The Lenoir-Rhyne product was dominant within his realm, but played at a lower level than most of the top prospects. It’s possible he could’ve dropped to the Patriots at a lower pick, but Bill Belichick knew who he wanted and didn’t risk losing him.

Dugger dealt with an ankle injury last year, but he stilled played in 14 games and seamlessly worked his way into an NFL setting with little offseason reps. Patriots legend Rodney Harrison was a part of that development, as he told ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Sunday.

“Right after the draft, they gave me his number and I just called him. I reached out and talked to him,” Harrison said. “Even this offseason, I text him and say, ‘Hey, send me some clips you want me to look over of you in coverage.'”

[Coach] Belichick told me that he’s been looking for a young kid who can come in and do a lot of the things that he basically asked me to do. Kyle can be that.”

Harrison believes in Dugger’s potential and he reiterated that to him with positive reinforcement.

“I’ve been telling him ‘You can cover. You just have to believe in yourself a little bit more. Don’t give those tight ends free releases. Get up there and jam them — you’re a big kid, you’re strong, so get up there and challenge them and don’t make it easy for them,'” Harrison said. “In the pass game, I just want to see him play with more confidence. He just has to believe what he sees. I tell him, ‘Believe what you see and go get it! Don’t second-guess yourself! Be aggressive! You don’t need to play careful.’

“In the run game, I think he’s tough and he’s starting to really see the line-block combinations; when the tight end blocks down and the tackle pulls, where he needs to go, where his proper fit is.”

Overall, Harrison is optimistic about Dugger’s future.

“I love the kid, his attitude,” he said. “He’s such a humble kid, and he wants to be really good. He asks questions.”

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Looking at the Patriots' complete 2021 schedule