'I want to play a lot better': New England Patriots' Dont'a Hightower self-critical after Week 1 loss to Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower
New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower

Dont'a Hightower is the centerpiece of the New England Patriots defense. The 31-year-old veteran has started 100 games since joining the Patriots in 2012. He's their signal-caller on defense and one of Bill Belichick's most trusted lieutenants.

Dont'a Hightower opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19. After a year away from football, it was a legitimate question as to whether he'd be rusty heading into this campaign. During their Week 1 game against the Miami Dolphins, that question was duly answered. Hightower, though owned up to his Week 1 performance, well aware that he has to play better going forward.

Dont'a Hightower speaks out after Week 1 loss to the Dolphins

The Dolphins won the game 17-16 in a showdown that could've gone either way. Dont'a Hightower played in the middle of the defense as usual, but his performance left something to be desired, specifically when it comes to his situational awareness.

“Win or lose, I always look for room for improvement, and that’s obviously there. I pride myself on being, not the smartest guy, but definitely I want to push up my awareness as far as situational awareness goes."

Dont'a Hightower was only credited for four tackles on Sunday. In addition, only two of them were solo tackles. Hightower only missed 4.1 percent of tackle attempts in his Pro Bowl season in 2019. He's historically been a solid tackler. But when you haven't played football in two years, rust is bound to show.

More so than anything, his lack of agility was visible. It didn't look like he could keep up with the speed of the Dolphins offense. Pro Football Focus graded him an abysmal 50.3 overall. Dont'a Hightower, though, deserves a pass given his resume since 2012. But starting in Week Two, the Patriots star's room for error is slim.

“But just all around, I just want to play better, obviously. It’s coming along, but obviously I want to play a lot better, be a little bit more impactful.”

Looking ahead to Week 2 for Hightower

Hightower was hurt in the fourth quarter of the game Sunday. He had to miss the last three Dolphins snaps because of said injury. Luckily for the Patriots, he's expected to be good for Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints.

Dont'a Hightower's return to good health comes at the right time. Kyle Van Noy hasn't practiced this week and his status isn't looking promising for Sunday. The Patriots will call upon Josh Uche to start in Van Noy's place if he's out, but Hightower is a veteran of the defense and their most important player in the front seven.

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