Patriots gridiron news: Dont’a Hightower sacks criticism of defense

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Josh McCown
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Josh McCown /

Veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower answers criticism of the New England Patriots struggling defense through Week 6 of the NFL season. 

The New England Patriots are typically a team good at shutting out the outside noise. That is, until the criticism gets so deep that it challenges the foundation of the team.

So far this season, the defense has been uncharacteristically bad.  With constant defensive breakdowns leading to long play after long play, any criticism of the coaching and players on the field has been justified.

However, don’t expect linebacker Dont’a Hightower to admit the team is effected by all the noise.

Speaking to the media on Friday, the defensive star expressed his opinions of all the criticism the defense has taken so far.

"“I try not to read into it, but it is what it is,” Hightower said, via WEEI.  “I really don’t read into it.  I don’t think too many guys in here do.  We know at the end of the day whenever we get rolling and start doing the things that we’re doing, the media is going to fluctuate.  That’s just how it is.  We’re just really concentrated on just going out and keeping the other team from scoring and getting the ball back to 12 [Tom Brady].”"

Although the team has allowed under 20 points the last two weeks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, the media and critics will not fluctuate until the defense can limit a quarterback like Matt Ryan and an offense like the Atlanta Falcons.

Rex Burkhead removed from injury report


 It looks like running back Rex Burkhead will be good to go Sunday night.

The versatile playmaker was removed from the injury report and listed as a full practice participant Friday.

Burkhead has missed the last four weeks due to a rib injury.  His return should open up more offensive versatility in the offense. With Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis serving as team’s primary backs, Burkhead will more than likely be used in the passing game.

If Gillislee or Lewis struggle, Burkhead does have power running skills and can be used in that capacity as well.

Mike Gillislee out for redemption

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Speaking of the New England Patriots running back unit, Mike Gillislee is locked in on ball security after he lost a fumble in last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

The costly turnover landed him on the bench for a while giving way to Dion Lewis.  While his particular play was not highlighted this week, a LeGarrette Blount fumble in Super Bowl LI was.  The play was used by Bill Belichick to remind players of what kind of defense the Atlanta Falcons are.

Gillislee knows he has to secure the ball against an aggressive ball-stripping unit.

"“I think I do a pretty good job at ball security, but I have to give it to the defense,” Gillilsee said, as transcribed by ESPN.  “He [Jets linebacker Darron Lee] just came back as I was trying to get through traffic and knocked it out at the perfect time.  It was a good play by him.“Usually when I’m in a lot of traffic like that, I usually try to put two hands on the ball.  He got me right when I was about to do it.”"

Next: New England Patriots: Atlanta Falcons have a Rob Gronkowski problem

If Gillislee puts the ball on the ground again, it may be awhile before he takes another snap.  Given the fact that Dion Lewis has been playing well and Rex Burkhead is healthy again, there is small room for error for the former Buffalo Bills running back.