New England Patriots lose LB Dont’a Hightower for the season

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Dont'a Hightower
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Dont'a Hightower /

The New England Patriots defense has taken another blow as linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be out for the rest of the 2017-18 season.

Dont’a Hightower was injured in the New England Patriots win over the Atlanta Falcons in the fog on Sunday night. Initially just a shoulder injury, it’s been revealed that Hightower also has a torn pectoral muscle. That injury will force him to miss the remainder of the season.

Hightower left the game against the Falcons in the 3rd quarter and he did not return.

NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport tweeted the news that Hightower is expected to miss the rest of the year.

Earlier this season, the linebacker missed some time with a knee injury. He was hurt in the week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and missed the next two games as well. He returned in week 4, but is again out after week 7. In total, Hightower appeared in 5 games for New England this season. He had 2 sacks and 12 tackles while on the field.

Hightower has dealt with injuries over the course of his career as he’s only played in all 16 regular season games once, in 2013. Last season he played in 13 games, and in 2014 and 2015 he appeared in just 12.

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The New England Patriots defense is clearly better with Hightower on the field. As the middle linebacker, he’s the heart and voice of the unit. Now, the team will have to find a way to step up in his absence. Kyle Van Noy will be asked to step up into Hightower’s role, and hopefully, Shea McClellin will be back soon as well. Run-stopper David Harris will also see an uptick in the amount of snaps he plays, along with Marquis Flowers, a special teams player.

New England could also look to make a trade for a linebacker. One name to keep an eye on is Hau’oli Kikaha of the New Orleans Saints. He hasn’t lived up to expectations for the Saints, but I have the feeling Bill Belichick could get more out of him.

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For now, the Patriots will have to focus on the Los Angeles Chargers and Phillip Rivers in week 8. Rivers still has some zip left in him, and he’ll look to take advantage of Hightower’s absence. The game will kickoff at 1 PM on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. It will be broadcast on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call.