The New England Patriots continue to fill out their coaching staff heading into next season, their first with linebackers coach turned head coach Jerod Mayo at the controls. On Friday, the team filled their linebackers coach vacancy, the spot once held by their new bench boss. Per NFL insider Ari Meirov, the AFC East club will hire former defender Dont’a Hightower for the role.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 9, 2024
The Patriots have added T.C. McCartney, Scott Peters, Alonzo Highsmith, and Bobby Brown to the team next season. Additionally, they retained the services of Brian Belichick, last year’s safeties coach.
Dont’a Hightower: Joining New England Patriots
After two seasons out of football, Dont’a Hightower will return to the sport next fall. The 25th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Hightower played his entire ten-year pro career with the New England Patriots. The Alabama Crimson Tide product tallied 60 tackles as a rookie before registering a career-best 97 tackles in 2013. Hightower played well the following season, registering 89 tackles and six sacks while helping lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory.
Hightower had another productive season in 2015 but stood out in 2016, making his first career Pro Bowl and earning second-team All-Pro recognition. The six-foot-three, 260-pound second-level defender had 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a safety during that season. The Patriots, alongside Hightower, again won the Super Bowl. After an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, the now-33-year-old returned the following season, tallying 48 tackles while winning his third Super Bowl. Hightower again made the Pro Bowl in 2019, but after opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he played his final season in 2021. He played five seasons with Jerod Mayo, with the duo now set to reunite on the coaching side.
New England Patriots: Looking to Improve Next Season
The Patriots will flip the page on a new chapter after six-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick will not patrol the sidelines next season. New England won only four games last season, their lowest total since 1992. The quarterback combination of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe combined for 16 touchdowns against 21 picks, with New England scoring 13.9 points per game, the second-lowest average in the NFL. They also finished in the bottom ten regarding yards per rush attempt, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns.
The defense played slightly better, holding opposing running backs to a league-worst 3.3 yards per carry. They also surrendered just 19 passing touchdowns, the fourth-lowest total in the NFL.