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Alabama in the Pros

LB Dont’a Hightower: New England’s leader on defense after Chandler Jones trade

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

He has been in this situation before, but now the former Alabama standout will face it as a professional.

New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is set to enter his fifth season in the National Football League this fall; however, one of his teammates will not join him on defense.

Defensive end Chandler Jones spent his first four seasons with the Patriots. Jones, like Hightower, was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

He had a strong year in 2015, posting 44 tackles, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound lineman earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl last season and was a vital part of New England’s Super Bowl championship team in 2014.

In order to gain a valuable draft pick, the Patriots decided to trade Jones to Arizona for offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick, per ESPN’s NFL Insider Ian Rapoport.

The move pans out well for Arizona as it beefs up its defensive front. With his teammate gone, Hightower has to step up as the enforcer on defense for New England.

He finished last season with 61 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Hightower collected All-Pro honors via Pro Football Focus for his efforts during the 2014 season.

Leading by example is nothing new for him.

Hightower anchored an Alabama unit in 2011 that led in the nation in all five major categories. The Crimson Tide allowed just 8.8 points per game that year, allowing Hightower to achieve All-American and first-team All-SEC honors.

He won two national championships (2009, 2011) and a Southeastern Conference title in 2009.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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