FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have played 22 regular-season games since the start of the 2015 season. Exactly half of them have featured both Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.
Hightower and Collins form one of the NFL’s best linebacker duos, but they played together in just eight of New England’s 16 games last season and just three of the Patriots’ first six this season. Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 with what reportedly was a partially torn meniscus, and Collins sat out Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals with a hip injury.
Hightower played arguably the best game of his career against the Bengals — earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career — but he hopes to have his partner in crime back on the field this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a lot more fluid having Jamie out there,” Hightower said Thursday. “A lot of the times, we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes, Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls, and I’ll play off of you.’
“It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything, so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there.”
Hightower has missed 10 games over the last three seasons, and Collins has missed six. Neither has played a full 16-game campaign since 2013.
“Maybe, but that’s part of it scheme-wise and everything else,” Hightower said when asked if he gets frustrated when he and/or Collins misses time. “With us out there, we’re able to do a lot of different things, a lot of versatility. So hopefully we can both stay out there.”
Collins was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with his hip ailment.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images