New England Patriots: 3 players that failed to produce in the 2021 season

New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots player that failed to produce No. 3: Dont’a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower could have retired yesterday and his legacy with the Patriots would have already been in tact. He’s been the glue of the Pats defense for the past 10 years, and he has always had a knack for delivering on the biggest stages. After taking the 2020 season off due to COVID concerns, Hightower made his return to the field in 2021 despite retirement rumors swirling around him constantly.

Hightower’s return was welcome after the team missed him sorely in 2020. After all, his 2019 season was arguably the most productive of his career. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly this time around for the veteran inside linebacker.

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It’s not as if Hightower’s numbers are bad by any means (64 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 QB Hits, 1 PD), but it just wasn’t the same production we had become accustomed to seeing from him. He seemed to lose a step during his season-long layoff, and his explosiveness that made him one of the best linebackers in the game was all but gone.

Hightower watched Ja’Whaun Bentley take over his role as the glue guy of this defense, and it wasn’t a surprise to see the Patriots really fall apart defensively against the Bills in the Wild Card round when Bentley was forced out due to injury. Hightower simply couldn’t replace Bentley, and the Pats lack of tackling ability showed up front and center.

With both Hightower and Bentley set for free agency, it feels like the team needs to prioritize bringing back Bentley at this point. Hightower may end up retiring, so it may be a moot point, but Hightower might have already played his last snap as a New England Patriot. Regardless of what happens, Hightower will go down in history as a vital piece of the second half of the Patriots dynasty, and his poor 2021 season shouldn’t take away from his prior accomplishments.