Patriots Gridiron News: Dont’a Hightower Sees Potential in Defense


The New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has quickly become the top playmaker on defense.  Can he help improve the players around him?

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has watched some of his talented teammates either traded, cut or benched the past few months but has remained a leader on the field.  Appearing on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday, the Patriots defensive captain talked about the current state of the defense.

Following a 30-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Hightower and the Patriots defense played a little bit better.  There were still stretches where the defense struggled and times when it was obvious the team missed players like Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins and Jabaal Sheard on the field.  Without those players, Hightower was asked if he was comfortable with the current team around him.

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"“Whether I am comfortable or not, that’s something that is out of my pay grade,” Hightower said via WEEI.  “I do what I am told.  I am a linebacker and I don’t get to make those decisions.”"

Although Hightower knows seeing those players go is part of the business, it has to be frustrating for the players who are currently in the locker room.  Still, the Alabama product says he is staying “focused” with the team around him and does see some potential in how the team is starting to put it all together, mainly their ability to limit the amount of points they give up.

"“I think the number one job on defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and right now I think we are No. 3 in that,” he said. “We’re doing a good job of that. There might be a few things we have to pick up — third down, just getting off the field and getting after the quarterback. Those are things that you just have to work through as far as being a defense. We know what we want to do and we have the right mindset and have the right people. We just have to go out and execute every week.”"

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The team is just allowing 18 points per game, but is also ranked 27th in the NFL in forced turnovers.  If they can find a way to improve in the latter, perhaps the confidence will build and that missing passion will suddenly erupt just in time for the playoffs.

Kyle Van Noy: Speaking of defense, linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a nice debut for the team Sunday.  Van Noy tallied three tackles and a sack in the team’s victory over the 49ers.  He played a total of 29 defensive snaps in his first game since coming over in a trade from the Detroit Lions.

November 20, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the football against New England Patriots outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) during the second quarter at Levi /

Jabaal Sheard:  Head coach Bill Belichick offered little information Monday on why defensive end Jabaal Sheard was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.  While there has been some discussion that Sheard’s lack of performance on the field was the main factor, the Patriots coach wouldn’t confirm or deny that as the reason.  He said the decision was best for the team…whatever that means in this case.

"“As I think I’ve said on dozens of occasions, every decision we make here is based on what’s best for the football team,” Belichick said."

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