Patriots' concern running high with Hightower injury

Patriots' concern running high with Hightower injury

There is significant concern about the injury suffered by Dont'a Hightower on Sunday night. The Patriots linebacker/edge defender reportedly has a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the Sunday against the Chargers, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. 

But there’s fear that it could be more than just the shoulder for Hightower, who was hurt in the second half of the victory over the Falcons.


Hightower had Falcons running back Devonta Freeman squared up but when Freeman cut hard to his left, Hightower lunged to grab him with his right hand. Freeman ran violently through Hightower’s arm and Hightower immediately dropped his head to the turf in pain.

The play looked similar to the one on which former Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo tore his pectoral muscle back in 2013 against the Saints.

Howe reports that Hightower could miss more than just Sunday’s game. If it is a pectoral muscle, that would require surgery and could end Hightower’s season. In other words, root for just the shoulder.

It may not bode well that the Patriots promoted linebacker Trevor Reilly on Wednesday from their practice squad.

Hightower is one of the Patriots most important players. He missed the first two games with a sprained knee but restored a semblance of normalcy to a struggling Pats defense as he settled back in at linebacker after spending more time at defensive end.

Hightower, 27, signed a four-year, $43.5 million deal in March which had $17 million fully guaranteed. There was definite interest from other teams in Hightower, but there was also concern about his durability. Entering this season, he’d missed 13 games in five seasons.

Sunday in Foxboro will mark the third game Hightower will miss this season and there’s fear there may be several more than that.

Losing Hightower would be a huge blow to a Patriots defense, which struggled to get its feet under it before Sunday night.

Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris and Reilly are now the main linebackers. Outside linebacker Shea McClellin is on injured reserve but started practicing last week and could return after the Patriots’ bye week.

The trade deadline is next Tuesday. By then the Patriots will surely know if they need to be in the market for someone to step in for Hightower. There really is no replacing him.


#FridayBag: Don't worry, you can keep your hands to yourself


#FridayBag: Don't worry, you can keep your hands to yourself

FOXBORO - Every Friday, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or Friday Bag, as they call it.

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.

MG: Hopefully that’s not needed, Casey, but I will pass it on. 

MG: BIG GAME! Sure. Why the hell not?

MG: Allie, this is a question that’s I’ve been pondering for years, or at least months . . . ok, for about 3 minutes. Tarzan has either a) been duping us all this time and actually has a job, drives an BMW and has a colonial with 2 1/2 baths or b) he’s a baby face who never hit puberty. 

MG: Mikey! Here’s a quite from Todd Wash, Jags DC, when asked about Ramsey possibly covering Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski Sunday: “I think the last thing you can do is to go into a game like this and you try and reinvent the wheel . . . Jalen is a good corner and he plays against wide receivers . . . "

So either he’s telling the truth or he doesn’t want to reveal a wrinkle. My opinion: Why waste Ramsey outside the entire game? Brady’s at his best attacking inside the numbers and even more to the point, inside the hashes. At the very least, I’d deploy Ramsey on Gronk in the red area and make Tommy boy look elsewhere.

MG: Yeah, tough injury. Jon Jones has been terrific on special teams for two years, a likely heir apparent to Matt Slater as that guy who ends up being in the Pro Bowl every year. Love almost every bit of what he brings. Would say Jonathan Bademosi will be active this week and move into that role. 

MG: Sizzle, for sure. We’ve done a lot of X’s and O’s on this one and one area where the Jags have been especially vulnerable is under the linebackers. That means running backs, that means shorter crossing patterns and that means combo platters designed to force these LBs to make a decision. Telvin Smith was targeted 13 times last weekend (according to Pro Football Focus) and surrendered 12 catches. A healthy Brady feasts on this.

MG: Goose making his #FridayBag debut. Welcome. Best matchup is Matt Patricia and his big brains versus Blake Bortles. If that kid thinks he’s going to be looking at the same thing very often, I got a bridge to sell him. Worst matchup is T.J. Yeldon on the linebackers. We’ve spent a ton of time talking about Leonard Fournette and what he brings if he’s healthy but Yeldon is both strong, shifty and can catch. With a skittish QB, Yeldon could be heavily involved.

PP: JP, checking in from the District! I'd say the chances are minimal. I would do it. You might do it. Go out on top and all that. But you and I haven't been saying for years that we're planing to work into our mid-40s. And we don't have post-retirement business plans that kind of hinge on our ability to work into our mid-40s. We also aren't about to be named MVP...of anything. We'll see, but I would be very surprised if this ends up being Brady's last season.

PP: Good question, Michael. Also a scary one for Patriots fans, I'd think. If the unexpected happens and Brady can't take the field, I think you'd have some packages in place for Chris Hogan or Jacob Hollister just in case something happened to Brian Hoyer. Hogan is arguably one of the most versatile athletes on the team, and he threw a pass (left-handed) at MetLife last year. Hollister was a walk-on quarterback at the University of Nevada. When he transferred to Arizona Western Community College, he made the transition to tight end.

PP: To me, all of these questions are related, so let's smash them all together. I do believe the Patriots will show plenty of "21" and "12" personnel in this game. That means either a) two receivers, two backs and one tight end, or b) two receivers, one back and two tight ends. In that scenario, the receivers would be -- in my opinion -- some combination of Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. I'd use the Cooks-Amendola combination most frequently unless it seems like Hogan has completely shaken the rust from his long regular-season absence. The reason it would be a good idea to use theses heavier formations -- as opposed to "11" personnel with three wideouts -- is that it attacks the Jaguars with their weaker coverage people on the field. If the Patriots deploy, say, James Develin, Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski in the same look, Jacksonville would likely have to respond by putting run-stuffing linebacker Paul Posluszny on the field. If the Patriots can manipulate the coverage to get any non-Develin weapon on Posluszny, that's a mismatch they can exploit. We go into further detail on how the Patriots can exploit the Jaguars' base defense -- which has struggled in coverage this season -- here