Which player missing from Patriots defense really stands out to Adam Gase?

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The Patriots clearly don’t have the same defense as they did a year ago.

Currently, the unit is ranked 14th overall and 12th in points allowed, which comes after it was the best in the league in both categories last season.

Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Duron Harmon and Danny Shelton were all of the players lost from a year ago either in the offseason or because of opt outs.

Speaking via conference call Thursday, Jets coach Adam Gase was asked what’s different about the defense this year and he immediately pointed to one player not being out there.

“I would say they’re missing some guys, obviously. [Dont’a] Hightower from opting out, that’s a big deal,” he said. “That’s a big loss, I know he’s missed games in the past because of injuries, but that changes quite a bit. I know they lost some guys in free agency, as well. But as far as schematically, they’re still very aggressive, still in your face, still man-to-man, still playing tight coverage, still creating a ton of turnovers. I think they are second in the league right now in turnovers. They still are playing the run extremely tough. I mean, it looks a little different than last year as far as bodies out there and how they are into it, but they’re having very similar results.”

Gase, who spent time with the Dolphins before New York, was also asked about his connection with Bill Belichick.

“I don’t think I really had a conversation with him until probably after I left Miami and we talked a little bit,” he said. “We talked at the Combine the last few years. I always try to listen as much as possible because I know there’s a lot of wisdom in things he says and things he’s always talked about when I’ve been around. Very helpful just as a professional-type deal for me. At the same time, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder being around somebody. Just some of the things that get brought up and some of the things that he’s experienced in his life. I mean, he's experienced some things that are interesting to hear and when you're around him and Matt Patricia, I mean those two guys together are funny to be around.

“I mean you get him and [Matt] Patricia together, they got some really good stories over the years. He’s seen a lot of things in his profession.”

We’d sure love to know what those conversations were like.