Morning sports update: Adrian Phillips compared Kyle Dugger to another former rookie standout

"The way that he just picked it up and he’s able to talk ball, seeing that in a rookie, you really don’t see that a lot of times."

Kyle Dugger prior to his NFL debut on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Kyle Dugger prior to his NFL debut on Sunday against the Dolphins. –AP Photo/Stew Milne

The Celtics face the Heat tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.

Also, rookie pitcher Tanner Houck, a 2017 first-round pick, makes his Major League debut for the Red Sox against the Marlins at 6:40 p.m.

Patriots praise Kyle Dugger: The first pick made by the Patriots in the 2020 NFL draft came in the second round, and it was a surprise.

But Kyle Dugger, a safety from Division II college program Lenoir–Rhyne, appears to have settled in quickly. He played 19 snaps in his first game with New England on Sunday in the season-opening win over Miami.

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Dugger, though he might take some time to fully acclimate to the Patriots and professional football in general, has nonetheless received a string of compliments from teammates.

“The first thing that I noticed was he’s smart,” fellow safety Adrian Phillips told reporters on Monday. “We didn’t get a chance to meet in person for a long time because we did everything virtually. But going through the meetings, this is a guy that can pick up on the scheme real quick. I would say this isn’t the easiest scheme to pick up. There’s a lot of things that go into it, but once you get it, you got it.

Phillips, a former Charger, made a notable comparison with Dugger and another safety.

“The way that he just picked it up and he’s able to talk ball, seeing that in a rookie, you really don’t see that a lot of times,” Phillips explained. “The only other time that I’ve really seen that was with Derwin James. So I noticed that a little bit. And when you see him in person, it’s just his physical stature — like 6-2, 6-3, you know, big guy. And he’s running, and he’s able to cover the tight ends, he can get down in the box, he can knock some heads off. So he’s solid.”

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Phillips, who is himself a versatile member of the Patriots’ defense, added that Dugger “is a pro already.”

Trivia: What Red Sox pitcher threw a no-hitter in just his second career start?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: He was selected by the Red Sox using a compensatory draft pick the team was given for the loss of free agent Pedro Martinez.

More from Boston.com:

Eric Reid’s thoughts on the NFL and Colin Kaepernick:

Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton has made it clear to the Patriots he’s available:

On this day: In 1978, Muhammad Ali became the only heavyweight boxer to win the title for a third time, defeating Leon Spinks in a unanimous decision.

The fight was broadcast on ABC, drawing an estimated audience of 90 million viewers for what turned out to be Ali’s last great win in the ring.

Daily highlight: Chelsea defender Reece James gave his team a lead they would not relinquish on Monday in an eventual 3-1 win over Brighton.

Trivia answer: Clay Buchholz

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