Dont’a Hightower‘s presence brings a sense of dread to opposing teams. But one of calm to Foxborough. Last year’s Covid opt-out, on the heels of Kyle Van Noy‘s and Jamie Collins‘ free-agent departures turned a decades-long strength (the Linebacking corp) into a glaring weakness. One that opposing coordinators rode to many victories during the 2020 Patriots season.

Those players that remained looked weak, inept, and at times clueless as to what to do, where to go, and how to act on a football field. Well AFC East, I hope you enjoyed your one season of offensive success.

Hightower’s return to Olympus

Zeus Hightower is back along with Van Noy and the Patriots’ defense, even in shorts and shells, already looks more like a Patriots defense than it did all of last season. And you can almost hear the relief in Head Coach Bill Belichick’s voice when he talks about Van Noy’s and  Hightower’s’ return. 

“It’s been great to have both of them back,” Belichick said on Wednesday.

“Both very instinctive players as well as have a good grasp and understanding of our defensive system. But beyond that, they’re able to process information. A lot of it new looks, new situations and make good decisions and also help their teammates execute in those situations as well through good communication or anticipation of a problem that they can recognize and adjust to pretty quickly. So yeah, it’s been great having those guys.”

Two sides to any coin

The Patriots gave up an anemic 3,557 yards passing last year. A damn good number. But when you take into account the ungodly 2,103 yards on the ground? You have to wonder if the former was a product of teams choosing to just run over the Pats. Looking back at the game film from last season, I wonder why anyone bothered attempting a pass. Having the likes of Hightower-Van Noy back and the addition of Matt Judon, have the Pats Linebackers’ room looking primed for a shutdown year.

And in the NFL if you are going to live by the run you better not die by it. The additions of Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, and second-round pick, Christian Barmore to the Defensive line are only going to make Dont’a Hightower’s job as defensive QB all the easier. 

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As always you can follow/give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

Featured Image via AP Photo/Elise Amendola