The Heat is On Hightower to Step Up


Recently-crowned captain Dont’a Hightower has the pressure on him as we near Week 1.

Over the past few offseasons, Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, has made a concerted effort to bring youth and athleticism to his defensive unit. This offseason, the youth movement will reach its peak with the Patriots fielding what looks like their youngest defensive lineup in recent memory. With the retirement of Jerod Mayo this offseason, a leadership void has opened up and the pressure will be on Dont’a Hightower to step up in his contract year.

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While there are a number of older veterans still on this team, nobody will be in a better position to emerge as the defensive leader for this young group than the 2012 first round pick. This offseason his locker was moved into Mayo’s spot right next to the locker room entrance signifying the team’s expectation that he will take over that role.

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Of course the transition has been in the works for a few seasons now as Hightower has been forced to take over the on field play calling in each of the past three seasons when Mayo has been out injured. Things got off to a rough start in 2013 when he was caught out of position trying to make the correct call.

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As time went on, Hightower grew into the role and continued to earn the trust of the defensive coaching staff. Last year as he battled injuries, there was a large difference in the effectiveness of the run defense when he was on the field compared to when he was on the sideline.

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There is just one thing missing before Hightower can fully assume his role as the leader of the Patriots defensive unit, a contract extension. Actions speak louder than words and based on the actions of the team this offseason they are preparing for him to be around for a long time. He has been the good soldier, touting the team mantra during his media engagements. This sort of behaviour further justifies the team’s faith in his ability to lead them in the long term.

Go Pats.