Expect Dont'a Hightower to continue to see more time in middle of Patriots defense

Ryan Hannable
October 12, 2017 - 5:14 pm

FOXBORO -- Last Thursday night against the Buccaneers, Dont'a Hightower played more snaps as a middle linebacker than in any other game this season. He still was used as an edge rusher in the base defense, but in sub packages he was in the middle, like he's been the majority of his career.

It appeared to help the defense overall, especially with the communication. Expect this trend to continue the rest of the season.

"I think that playing and being able to play in multiple spots, I mean, it helps us," Hightower said. "I like it the most because it makes the quarterback, the coordinator – it makes them think what coverage or what we're doing. It puts us in different situations where we're able to force people’s hands sometimes. The more you can do around here and the more confusing you can get with veteran quarterbacks and good offensive coordinators the better it is around here."

Added Hightower: "I think communication is on me whether I’m on the ball or not, but it’s definitely a lot easier being in the middle. Being on the edge is kind of on an island. Last week was great on the ball or off the ball. I think in the linebacker room with me, KV [Kyle Van Noy], [Marquis] Flowers, David [Harris] and E-Rob [Elandon Roberts] – I think we've done a good job as far as trying to grow the front seven, the back end as far as communication and how we go about that. That helped last week so hopefully we'll just continue to build on that. Half the time it was us misaligned and wasn’t communication, so if we can nip that in the bud and stop ourselves from shooting ourselves in the foot, that'll be big."

Hightower missed the majority of training camp and Weeks 2 and 3 with a knee injury, so the defense finally has been able to play a few games with all of its pieces in place.

According to Hightower, this is one of the reasons why the communication took longer than usual to come together.

"It's different every year with the different players and who we're playing and how that other stuff goes," he said. "It starts as early as training camp and all of that stuff. It's easier when you have all of the guys on the same page. We've got that now. Malcom [Brown] and Trey [Flowers] and [Alan] Branch do a good job with the front and me, KV and E-Rob in the second level and then Devin [McCourty] and Du [Duron Harmon] and [Patrick] Chung in the back end. We have our communicators and we're starting to evolve. It took a little bit longer than we'd like but hopefully we'll grasp that and keep moving in the right direction and keep building and be a better and stronger defense each week."

In three games, Hightower has six tackles and one sack.

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