New England Patriots: Ranking the top defensive starters for 2018

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Devin McCourty
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Devin McCourty /
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2. Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker

Dont’a Hightower is the best linebacker on the squad. His versatility in playing both middle and outside linebacker make him duly dangerous.

He is also a fierce competitor who makes huge plays for the defense. He was recently elected as a team captain as well. Hightower is credited with changing the fortunes of the Patriots during their game against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

New England needed a miracle at some point and Hightower delivered a perfect strip sack on Matt Ryan that gave the Patriots a chance to get back in the game.

The talented linebacker was missed last season as he only suited up for five games due to various injuries throughout the season.

He ultimately was put on injured reserve and was unable to return for the playoffs where the Patriots needed his leadership and playmaking skills.

Hightower is the most imposing defender on the roster, with the ability to shed off linemen effortlessly to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

He plays technically sound football and is proficient at defending passes in zone and man coverage. Hightower has played his entire career in New England, making him one of Belichick’s favorite leaders on the team.

As long as he maintains his health during the upcoming season, the Patriots should have an improved run defense, to say the least. Hightower’s presence will make his teammates better and keep offenses on their guard.