The New England Patriots‘ season might be swinging in their favor after the team’s win versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. The offense showed its full potential when firing at full cylinders. However, the Patriots defense that has carried the team through the first half of the season might be regressing to its form of recent years past.
With all of the injuries to key players, someone must step up and make their mark. Could it be the return of All-Pro Aqib Talib or could Chandler Jones take it upon himself to lead the defense? These questions will be answered as the season goes along, but in my mind one player stands out above the rest.
The 2012 first round draft pick, Dont’a Hightower, will try to live up to the hype of his draft status and make his presence felt the rest of the way. The last time Hightower made some type of national impact was in the first game of the 2012 season against the Tennessee Titans, scoring a touchdown off a sack from his draft-mate Jones.
The recent switch back to the 3-4 defense will also boost the playmaking ability of Hightower. When playing with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Hightower played multiple positions, including inside linebacker, rush or outside linebacker, defensive end and even a little bit of defensive tackle. Hightower’s versatility was the main reason Bill Belichick and the Patriots drafted him in 2012.
If the Patriots want Hightower to live up to his draft status, the team must consider moving him around the field more than they already do. As of now, New England uses him primarily at inside linebacker. The Patriots must take advantage of their asset and move the playmaking linebacker around the entire field.
If the Patriots want a player to step up in the absence of some of their stars, Hightower needs to be utilized in a variety of unique and different ways. New England must take a page out the defensive playbooks of the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers by moving their star defender around the line of scrimmage. Look for the linebacker to step up big during the rest of the 2013 season.