New England Patriots: Dont’a Hightower could be the answer on the edge

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Dont'a Hightower
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Dont'a Hightower /

The New England Patriots biggest question mark heading into the 2017 season is the defensive end position, but a linebacker on the squad could be the answer.

When you look at the New England Patriots roster, one thing is clearly missing. The team needs more help on the edge at the defensive end position.

Trey Flowers was a star last season, but right now he’s really all that the team has. Geno Grissom is also on the team, but he’s not exactly turning any heads or forcing opponents to gameplan for him. Rookie Deatrich Wise is also available, but he’ll have to adjust to the NFL game. Rob Ninkovich retired earlier this offseason, and rookie end Derek Rivers sufferered a season ending injury in week 1 of the preseason. Many thought Kony Ealy, who was brought over this offseason, would be able to help. We were all wrong, as the team cut him this week. The Patriots need help with their pass rush.

There are free agents available for New England to sign if they wish, but right now it looks like they’re focused on developing the edge role from within. Dont’a Hightower could help to ease the burden of those edge players, as he’s begun to work with them a bit in practice.

Heading into the 2012 NFL Draft, Hightower was viewed as a tweener. New England has used him as a linebacker primarily, but he has spent some time on the end of the defensive line as well. In Super Bowl LI, his strip sack of Matt Ryan came as he was lined up as an edge defender. Hightower is extremely versatile and is a leader on this Patriots team. His willingness to do whatever the team needs him to do in order to win, is why he’s the perfect fit to transition to a more permanent edge role.

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New England would still be set within the linebacking corps, as they have Jonathan Freeny, David Harris, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy all firmly on board. Undrafted free agent Harvey Langi could also find his was onto the Patriots roster to begin the season. New additions Nick Usher and Marquis Flowers could do the same. Flowers, a University of Arizona product in his 4th season, will surely be on the team as a core special teams player, and he adds depth behind the starters on defense.

We should all be on board with a Hightower move to the edge role. He’s talented enough to become a dominant force on the line and he could cause some nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. Overall, this move would truly benefit the Patriots and the defense.

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New England will open the NFL season as they clash with the Kansas City Chiefs on September 7th at Gillette Stadium. Perhaps it will be the first time that we see Dont’a Hightower in a permanent edge role for the New England defense.