Off Day Mailbag: Is Dont'a Hightower's importance being overlooked?


Welcome to the Off Day Mailbag, a new feature from Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable where they answer questions leftover from their podcast.

In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for @OffDayPod seeking questions for the podcast and mailbag. Tweet your questions to that account and then look for them to appear in the podcast, mailbag, or even both. 

Do you think Hightower’s importance to the defense is being over looked because of the type of season Van Noy and Collins are having? (@KavanSingh72)

Short answer? Yes. Hightower remains one of the true key cogs in the Patriots defense, both in terms of actual production and on-field leadership. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that maybe New England’s worst defensive performance of the year came in Buffalo, a game that Hightower sat out. He returned a week later and put on a show in Washington. The Boogeymen linebackers have been the foundation of the dominant defense so far this season and Hightower is still the centerpiece of that versatile, valuable group. That said, Collins and Van Noy deserve all the attention they are getting because they are both having really good seasons. For Van Noy, this is two years in a row that he’s played at a really high level doing a lot of different things for the New England defense.

— Andy Hart

With N’keal Harry set to be activated, who will the Patriots activate as their 2nd IR guy? (@ericlloyd84)

All along I’ve assumed that Isaiah Wynn would be one of the two players designated to return from injured reserve. I think he’s being counted on to return from his foot injury and stabilize the left tackle spot that’s been an issue with journeyman Marshall Newhouse holding it down. The funny thing is Wynn has played one game and one quarter in his NFL career, so his ability to be a consistent, high-end left tackle remains more of a projection than expectation. While many talk about a possible trade to add talent at receiver –even with Harry as a possible reinforcement – or tight end, Wynn has the chance to be a midseason upgrade at left tackle if he’s up to the task.

— Andy Hart

Is burkhead our best all around running back when healthy? (@robertlutt)

Yes, the problem is that he can never seem to stay healthy. In terms of a possible three-down back, a guy capable of playing at a high level as both runner and a receiver, Burkhead is the best of the Patriots deep, talented backfield. He’s a better runner than James White. He’s obviously a better pass catcher than Sony Michel. He really can do just about anything you could ask for in a running back, except stay on the field consistently. It’s too bad, because it would be fun to see what Burkhead could accomplish in the Tom Brady-led offense if he was available every snap every week. But that’s just not been his reality. So you take what you can get from him when you can get it.

— Andy Hart

honest question, with the latest additions at tight end why do we still keep Matt LaCosse? (@Bobmarley92286)

Because you don’t really know what you have in Benjamin Watson and Eric Tomlinson. On top of that, there were only two tight ends on the roster to begin with (LaCosse and Ryan Izzo). Also, when healthy LaCosse is no doubt either the best or second-best tight end on the roster and is worth keeping around. The only issue is he’s having major issues staying healthy and this knee injury is a different injury that bothered him to open the season. If Tomlinson and Watson both turn out great and contribute right away then the question could be asked, but right now LaCosse sticks around because it’s known what he can contribute when healthy.

— Ryan Hannable

Who would you trade for, and what would you be willing to give up (Players/picks)?  (@micha2334)

This could be a long answer, so I’ll keep it simple. The Patriots should be going after wide receivers and the top two realistic targets as of now appear to be Emmanuel Sanders in Denver and Mohamed Sanu in Atlanta. Both are veteran players playing for teams heading in the wrong direction, who may be looking ahead to next year. This means they do not want a player in return, they want draft picks. Both players seem likely to cost a mid-round pick, although prices could go up based on demand. Some might suggest a Michael Bennett for either of these players swap, but why would the Falcons or Broncos want to take on Bennett when they don’t have much of a chance of making the playoffs and are seemingly looking ahead to next season? It would be a major surprise if the Patriots do not make a trade between now and the Oct. 29 trade deadline.

— Ryan Hannable