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Analysis: Patriots Downgrade Kyle Dugger to Out, Elevate Kody Russey From Practice Squad for Sunday's Game vs. Jets

The Patriots downgraded Dugger (ankle) to out for Sunday's game.

Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23).
Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23).

The Patriots look to put last Monday night behind them as they head to the Meadowlands to face the red-hot Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

However, New England will need to bounce back without three key contributors. Along with ruling out starting center David Andrews (concussion) and DL Christian Barmore (knee), the Patriots also downgraded safety Kyle Dugger (ankle) to out on Saturday. Dugger did not make the trip with the team.

Dugger returned to practice in a limited capacity for the week's final session. But he was officially questionable for Sunday's game after he was landed on awkwardly in Monday night's loss to the Bears.

The good news for the playmaking safety is that the ankle injury doesn't appear to be a long-term issue. Still, the Pats will likely turn to veteran Jabrill Peppers as the third safety alongside Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips.

This season, the Patriots lead the league in defensive snaps with three or more safeties on the field. With Dugger and Phillips playing multiple roles at all three levels, Peppers fills in as another hybrid safety who can move around to different alignments and line up as an undersized linebacker.

Second-year safety Joshuah Bledsoe could also be active for just the second time this season. Bledsoe filled a third-down role when Dugger missed the Pats loss to the Ravens in Week 3 due to a different injury.

New York doesn't feature a prolific pass-catching threat at tight end. Instead, they rely on their tight ends on flat routes off bootleg actions and as check-down options for quarterback Zach Wilson.

Luckily, without Dugger, the Patriots have great depth at safety and aren't dealing with an offense that features a stud tight end in the passing game.

Along with downgrading Dugger, the Patriots elevated center Kody Russey from the practice squad and activated tackle Yodny Cajuste from injured reserve. In a corresponding move, rookie guard Chasen Hines was placed on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for Cajuste.

With starting center David Andrews ruled out due to a concussion, veteran James Ferentz is expected to start for New England at center on Sunday. Russey will provide depth on the interior.

The Patriots signed Russey as an undrafted rookie free agent, and he showed steady progress throughout training camps before landing on the practice squad. Between stints at Louisiana Tech and Houston, the 23-year-old started 60 career games at center at the collegiate level. Russey is an undersized center with above-average athleticism and a high football IQ due to his experience as a collegiate center.

Although the Patriots will miss one of their leaders and most consistent linemen in Andrews, Ferentz has improved to the point where he's a useful backup and has an excellent understanding of New England's line calls.

By activating Cajuste and with OT Isaiah Wynn (shoulder) making the trip, the Patriots get some much-needed tackle depth. New England could not use their highly-successful six offensive linemen package last week because of Wynn's injury. The Pats were down to two healthy tackles in starters Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon but now have the depth to use an extra offensive lineman on Sunday.

This season, the Patriots have the third-most offensive snaps with six offensive linemen on the field (40). In that package, New England is averaging 12 yards per pass attempt.

Lastly, the Jets elevated practice-squad quarterback Chris Streveler to the game-day roster. Streveler had nine rush attempts for 71 yards in the preseason and could add a wrinkle as a Taysom Hill-type for New York. The former CFL star also rushed for over 1,100 yards and 22 touchdowns in two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With the Patriots recent struggles against mobile quarterbacks, they could face a wildcat package with Streveler at quarterback.

The Patriots will visit the New York Jets with kickoff at 1 pm ET at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

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