By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — As a safety, Kyle Dugger is the last line of defense for the New England Patriots. His job is to lay some serious licks on opponents when they reach the final layer of the defense.

He’s also responsible for swooping in and stealing receptions from would-be receivers, something he’s still looking to do for the first time at the NFL level. With the Patriots set to rely heavily on the second-year safety in 2021, Dugger’s chances at coming down with his first career interception are pretty good this season.

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Dugger has been thrust into a starting role in just his second season in the NFL, and he played nearly the entire game in Week 1’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, seeing the field for 93 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He finished with seven combined tackles, one of which went for a loss.

He’s yet to pick off a pass at the NFL level, but he had five interceptions during his career a Lenoir-Rhyne University. Dugger sat down with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche for a 1-on-1 on Wednesday night’s Patriots 1st Down on TV38, and was asked what he likes more — leveling an opponent, breaking up a pass, or coming down with an interception.

“That’s tough,” Dugger said, having to really think of his answer. “I’d say an interception. Just because a turnover is a turnover.”

But make no mistake. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound missile in the New England secondary loves to hit as well. That’s been the case since he started playing football when he was just four years old.

It’s just something I kinda picked up,” he explained. “One thing about this game is you get to be aggressive and you won’t get in trouble for it. That’s something I’ve always had.”

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Dugger saw action in 14 games as a rookie last season and made seven starts. He finished the year with 64 combined tackles as he acclimated to life in the NFL following his collegiate career in Division-II.

Now he’s out there alongside veteran leader Devin McCourty as a bastion of the Patriots defense. While the unit only allowed 17 points to the Dolphins in Week 1, they were gashed for several big plays and failed to make a stop late in the game to get the ball back to the offense.

“I think it was alright. We have a lot to correct,” Dugger said of the team’s Week 1 performance. “But we did some good things as well. We just have to continue to get better.”

Now the Patriots are set to face another winless team with a rookie quarterback; the 0-1 New York Jets and Zach Wilson. The No. 2 overall pick struggled in the first half of New York’s Week 1 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but finished the 19-14 loss with 258 passing yards, a pair of touchdown and an interception.

“He’s talented. I think he’s a good quarterback,” Dugger said of Wilson. “He reads defenses well, and their offense is talented as well. They do a lot of good things, so it will be up to us to do our job this weekend and stop them.

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“I think we’ll respond well,” Dugger said of the New England D. “Do our job and do what we need to do.”

CBSBoston.com Staff