Jerod Mayo says Dont’a Hightower’s strong play is ‘pleasant surprise’ after opt-out year

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The New England Patriots linebacker group was without Dont’a Hightower last season. With the veteran opting out due to COVID-19, it was anyone’s guess as to what type of linebacker Hightower would be in 2021.

On the year, Hightower has 28 tackles and two quarterback hits. He has been a piece of a defense that is beginning to find its groove after a difficult month of October.

Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo has been impressed with the way Hightower has contributed to this point in the season. Hightower has played 69% of all defensive snaps. Hightower’s lowest amount since 2012, Mayo is pleased with what he is getting out of his linebacker.

“No, honestly, he’s still the physical player, the good pass rusher and the guy who was able to do a bunch of different things. It’s a pleasant surprise to see him do these things, again, after taking a year off,” Mayo said, per Nick O’Malley of MassLive.com. “So he’s done great for us. He’s good in the classroom. He’s good on the field, smart player and a great leader for this team.”

With the Patriots defense undergoing a facelift in the offseason, Hightower’s versatility continues to be a welcome constant.

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