15 most important Patriots for 2019: No. 4, Dont'a Hightower

With the Patriots off until training camp, we’re having a series featuring the 15 most important Patriots players for the upcoming season. The countdown will continue for the next several weeks.

No. 4: Dont'a Hightower

Position: Linebacker

2018 stats: 48 tackles, 1 sack, 6 QB hits, 1 interception

Why he’s No. 4: Some might be surprised that Hightower is so high on the list, but he does so much that doesn't show up on the stat sheets. He's the unquestioned leader in the front-seven as he knows the system the best and can line anyone up in the right place. He's also the player the unit looks to most in terms of advice, how to act, etc. Not only that, the Alabama product is also very versatile and line up as a traditional inside linebacker, but has also showed the ability to line up on the edge and rush the passer. His versatility makes him so valuable to the unit.

While the linebacker position has quite a bit of depth, it's hard to imagine the defense being able to survive extended time without him. While the team did make it to the Super Bowl in 2017 when he only played five games, his absence was felt the entire season and the defense was the unit that let the team down in the game against the Eagles. Given his experience and leadership qualities, we view him as the second-most important player on the Patriots defense.

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