Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Bill Belichick gives Dont'a Hightower tremendous praise

Ryan Hannable
October 01, 2018 - 11:30 am

For as much as Dont'a Hightower hasn't been himself the first three weeks of the season, he seemed to pick things up Sunday against the Dolphins.

Hightower had his best game of the season despite only having two tackles, but he was swarming to the ball and was the signal-caller after the team lost Ja'Whaun Bentley to injured reserve earlier last week. He did a number of things that don't show up on the stat sheet like helping other players line up in the correct spots to put them in positions to make plays.

Speaking on a conference call Monday, Bill Belichick had tremendous praise for the linebacker when it comes to his value to the defense, specifically his mental part of the game.

"I think about that and talk about it quite a bit, to be honest with you," he said. "Sometimes, players, maybe they can’t even tell you how they know what the right thing to do is, they just know what the right thing to do is. Sometimes they anticipate it. Sometimes it just comes to them just instinctively. But, High’s a smart player. He can play multiple positions. The mental part of the game seems to come very easy for him, going between mike or sam or will or defensive end or a different position in pass rush on third down. Assignment wise, all those come pretty easily for him, and athletically he has a great combination of size, power, pass rush, zone, man coverage – he’s done all those things for us. How does he know what to do? I’m sure it’s a combination of all those things, like it is with a lot of great players.

"You could ask [Patrick] Chung and [Devin] McCourty and Malcom Brown and [Kyle] Van Noy and guys like that all the same question, and I’m sure each play and each situation might give you a little bit of a different answer. Through my experience with players, sometimes they can’t even give you an answer. They know, but they just don’t know. They just kind of – it just sort of looks a little different and that’s how they knew it was a screen or that’s how they knew it was a play-action pass or that’s how they knew it was something that was a little bit different. They could just, instinctively, figure it out. But, yeah, that position, the middle linebacker position, is a key communication position for us on defense, as it is for every team – middle linebacker to safety, like center-quarterback are on offense.

"So, when you’re in the middle of the formation, that’s the person who has to coordinate the things in front of them, and the communication works from the inside out, not the outside in. So, Dont’a does a good job of that, and again, because of his experience at all the different linebacker positions, as well as defensive end, I think he has a real good feel for what everybody else needs to know and how important it is that they get the proper communication because he’s played all those spots. And, so, he does a great job for us in that area – so do Kyle and Elandon [Roberts] and [Ja’Whaun] Bentley when he was in there. They’re all good communicators. High has the most experience and he does an excellent job of it, but those other guys do a good job, too."

Hightower will be asked to do a lot more with Bentley out and potentially Elandon Roberts, who left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter.

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