The band is back together.
When the Patriots re-signed versatile linebacker Kyle Van Noy, after having already welcomed back Dont'a Hightower, they brought together two of the key pieces that helped make up championship defenses in 2016 and 2018. The pair was also a significant factor in making the 2019 Patriots defense among the best in football for a time.
For Van Noy, reuniting with Hightower this offseason is energizing.
"I'm excited," Van Noy told reporters Wednesday. "That's my brother. We've been through a lot together. We've played a lot of games together. It's nice when you can just use hand gestures or look at each other and know what each other is thinking. I'm excited to get back to work with him."
The duo will make up what looks like a formidable front-seven for Bill Belichick's defense. With Hightower in the middle, Van Noy and newly-signed free agent Matthew Judon on the edges, and with promising rookie Josh Uche getting more comfortable in the pro game, it appears to be a linebacker unit that will bring size and interchangeability to the field on a weekly basis.
And of all the parts brought aboard this offseason, Hightower's return from opting out of the 2020 season could end up being the most impactful. His ability to change games as a run defender, pass-rusher and primary communicator in the middle of the defense was missed last year. With him back in the fold, there could be a ripple effect that raises the level of those around him.
"I think his impact is bigger than people think because he's such a force," Van Noy said. "When he steps on the field, everybody's like, 'That's Dont'a Hightower.' Hopefully when we both step on that field again, people will say the same thing about both of us. I'm excited to work with him, I'm excited to see him every day. I know how excited he gets to see me every morning, baby. It's going to be good. He's going to be good, I think."