Dont’a Hightower Differentiates Between Taking Chances And Freelancing

FOXBORO, Mass. — Freelancing can get you traded from the New England Patriots. But taking chances? That can turn around a defense.

The Patriots ranked 28th in turnovers per game and 15th in turnover margin as recently as Nov. 26. The Patriots now rank 17th in turnovers per game and fourth in turnover margin as they prepare for Week 17 of the regular season, when they take on the Miami Dolphins.

A key to an increase in turnovers is taking smart chances.

“Turnovers have been big,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “We lacked it early in the season. We got a lot of progress with that. A lot of guys getting to the ball. We had plays where the ball’s been out and guys have been late. Lately, we’ve just been taking a lot of — we’ve been able to take chances and be able to make plays with that.

“Guys do a great job of that. Logan Ryan does a great job every week, Eric Rowe does a great job. Everybody in that secondary group, and it’s not just them, it’s the front guys running to the ball, trying to make a play from the backside. We’re going as a defense, and we want to be able to get the ball and cause turnovers. Whenever we’re able to do that, we’re able to get off the field and give the ball back to (quarterback) Tom (Brady). Whenever we can lead in time of possession and getting off the field on third down, we feel like we’re able to win and play really well. If we continue to do that throughout this, I think we’ll be pretty good.”

A reporter asked Hightower to clarify between taking chances and freelancing on defense. Reportedly one of the reasons linebacker Jamie Collins was traded was because he was freelancing too frequently.

“I’m glad you said that,” Hightower said. “Just knowing certain spots in the defense, in the coverage, that we’re able to get away with. Sometimes if you’re playing man-to-man, you obviously can’t try to pick the ball off if you’re naked, if you don’t have any help or anything like that. So that’s what I mean by taking chances. When you have help in zone and you’re able to get a read and get a good jump on the quarterback, that’s what I mean by taking chances.”

Hightower missed Week 16 with a knee injury. How’s he feeling as the Patriots prepare for the Dolphins?

“It’s football season. It’s football until the fat lady sings.”

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

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