Patriots Mailbag: Is Super Bowl Still Realistic With Dont’a Hightower Out?


New England Patriots fans received a literal rude awakening Thursday morning when they found out at 8:30 a.m. ET that star linebacker Dont’a Hightower was out for the season with a torn pec.

Patriots fans immediately were divided. Half seemed to believe the season was over, the sky was falling and Super Bowl hopes had vanished. The other half immediately underrated Hightower’s impact and thought the Patriots would continue like business as usual.

The truth is somewhere in between. Let’s get into it with this week’s mailbag.

Do the Patriots realistically have a good chance of winning the SB, or do the injuries to Edelman/Hightower remind you of 2015 ? #MailDoug
— @RandTtocs99
I think losing Hightower for the season dramatically decreases the Patriots’ defensive upside, just like Julian Edelman’s ACL tear did the same to the offense. But as with Edelman, I believe the Patriots can still win a Super Bowl without Hightower.

It’s slightly different, but the Patriots won a Super Bowl last season without one of their best receivers (Rob Gronkowski) and defenders (Jamie Collins). Of course, the Patriots voluntarily traded Collins, but many wondered if the Patriots could win it all after losing both players.

I think what helps is the rest of the NFL is quite mediocre this season. The Kansas City Chiefs have lost two straight, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been woefully inconsistent, the Philadelphia Eagles just lost their All-Pro left tackle for the season and the Seattle Seahawks didn’t even have a left tackle to begin with — or really an offensive line in general.

No one’s perfect. The Patriots will struggle to replace Hightower, and their defense might not look as good as they did Sunday night again this season, but they still have enough offensive firepower to go all the way.

Do the pats go after a LB via trade? #MailDoug
— @CombineArtwork
It’s possible, but they need a pass rusher more than another linebacker.

If the Patriots don’t intend to play David Harris with Dont’a Hightower now out, then why is he on the roster? What’s the point of carrying Elandon Roberts and Harris if the Patriots were going to need to make a trade due to injury?

The Patriots could elect to stay put altogether since they have Shea McClellin coming back, and he can fill multiple roles as a linebacker and pass rusher. But I think they need a player who, like Hightower, can generate consistent pressure on third down, and McClellin isn’t that player. The New Orleans Saints’ Hau’oli Kikaha is a player that comes to mind, and it seems teams have been interested in the pass rusher.

The Patriots clearly were looking to win now based on their offseason moves. Would they make a splash trade if the right player was available? Maybe. They’re certainly not looking to give up on the season.

It would be pretty fun if the Patriots made a cannonball splash off of the high dive into the deep end and acquired a top-flight player, compensation be damned.

Say we get Gilmore back this week but not Rowe. How do you matchup with the Chargers Receivers and Tight Ends
— @ollycurtisUC
I’d either play sides or have Stephon Gilmore take on Keenan Allen with Johnson Bademosi on Tyrell Williams, Malcolm Butler on Travis Benjamin and Patrick Chung on the tight end.

When the Chargers go with two tight ends, then I’d put Butler on Williams with Chung and Devin McCourty on the tight ends.

It might seem like a mismatch to put one of the Patriots’ linebackers on Melvin Gordon, but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hasn’t attempted a deep pass to his running back all season. If the Chargers are smart, that could change this week. The Patriots’ linebackers are, uh, not fast.

With Dont’a out, Flowers is more important than ever. How good is he really, comparing to other DEs around the league?
— @carlmarcuslewin
That’s tough for me to gauge because while I watch every NFL game I possibly can, I don’t watch them the same way I view Patriots games. I think Flowers is good. I wouldn’t say he’s made the jump I and many others expected him to this season, however.

Pro Football Focus ranks Flowers as the 30th best edge defender among 106 qualified players. He ranks behind three former Patriots defensive ends in Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard and Kony Ealy.

Akeem Ayers. That is my question.
— @TheKaitoKid29
Patriots fans love Akeem Ayers almost as much as they enjoy 28-3 comeback jokes.

I feel like there must be a reason why Ayers is still a free agent. He must just not be the same player he was on the Patriots in 2014, otherwise, he’d be employed.

It’s possible the Patriots re-sign him, but it’s not a great sign he’s still out there.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Is the sun hot
— @jbradz96
Yes, but I don’t know why space is cold for all you “Pardon My Take” fans.

Do you think Melvin Ingram could be a possible trade target for NE?
— @RedbirdNation11

#maildoug Am I crazy to think we try to get Buckner or Armstead from the 9ers? Maybe a versatile linebacker like Armstrong as well?
— @TherealFTown

That’s a really wordy meme. And it’s pretty blurry.

we go to the movies together…Y or N to a buffer ??

— @EmersonLotzia
No buffer.

Does Brady have a better completion percentage on the right or left side of the field?
— @JustinMH90
Brady has thrown 48 fewer passes from his right side but has a higher completion percentage (68 percent) and passer rating (109) than to his left (65 percent, 101.9 passer rating). Brady has a 58.1 percent completion percentage and 90.5 passer rating to the middle.

Besides Tom Brady, which additional player injury would end SB hopes? How do you view the Hightower injury in this scope? #MailDoug
— @shumway20
Rob Gronkowski. And I know that sounds dumb because they won a Super Bowl without him like, less than nine months ago. But that was with Edelman in the offense. I’m not convinced the Patriots could lose both players and still win a Super Bowl.

@DougKyed The Pats D was so Bad….emosi to start the season, what changed for them to play in Harmon….y? #maildoug
— @U2BFM
Strong pun game.

Can you play LB?
— @amorales_16
I guess I could, but I wouldn’t be very effective.

When is Rowe due back?
— @PatriotsUK12
Not anytime soon based on how he’s moving in the locker room. The Patriots don’t need to rush Rowe back because Bademosi is playing so well.

I’ve been drinking a glass of Patriots my whole life every day and haven’t grown any taller. #why?
— @FanOfAll64
Well, that’s because Patriots isn’t a drink, it’s a football team. Are you confusing milk with Patriots?

By the way, milk sucks.

Do you like @jeffphowe ? #maildoug
— @U2BFM
I like most if not all reporters who are at Gillette Stadium regularly, Jeff Howe included.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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