Dont’a Hightower: Patriots’ Pass Rush Must ‘Play With The Hand That We’re Dealt’


October 20, 2016

The New England Patriots have an enviable amount of talent along their front seven, but they’ve struggled at sacking the quarterback thus far in 2016.

The Patriots’ defense has just 12 sacks through six games this season, which is down from 21 in the same span last season.

The Patriots traded away defensive end Chandler Jones and released Dominique Easley over the offseason but acquired Chris Long and Shea McClellin, and Trey Flowers is fully healthy after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury. They also have Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins and Barkevious Mingo as edge defenders.

One potential cause for the Patriots’ lack of pressure is the uptick in mobile quarterbacks they’ve faced this season. They’ve played conservative while going against Ryan Tannehill, Tyrod Taylor and Andy Dalton, though they didn’t do much better pressuring Carson Palmer, Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler or Charlie Whitehurst. Last season, they played against Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, Blake Bortles, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“That?s something that we have to do, players on the field, just being able to play with the hand that we?re dealt,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Thursday. “So regardless of what the situation is, whether we?re rushing three or six, seven or four, we have got to get pressure and get off the field. We let (defensive coordinator) Matty P (Matt Patricia) and (head coach) Bill (Belichick) take care of the X?s and O?s, and we?ll take care of what?s in between the lines.”

The Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will have Landry Jones under center filling in for Roethlisberger, this week. Jones is about as immobile as they come, so if the Patriots aren’t able to generate pressure Sunday, then this could be a long-term concern.

Sheard leads the Patriots with 3.5 sacks, while Long leads the team with 29 total pressures. Hightower generates pressure at the highest clip, recording a sack, QB hit or hurry on 26.8 percent of pass rushes.

The Patriots are winning without a pass rush, so perhaps they’re waiting to fully unleash the pressure later this season when it’s necessary.

Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images

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