Linebacker Dont'a Hightower says he doesn't care where he plays, but feels his versatility gives the defense an edge.
FOXBORO – Primarily a middle linebacker in years past, Dont’a Hightower says he has no preference, but believes his versatility gives his team an edge.
“I think that playing and being able to play in multiple spots, I mean, it helps us,” the Patriots’ sixth-year player said Thursday. “I like it the most because it makes the quarterback, the (offensive) coordinator mix, think what coverage or what are we doing.
“It puts us in different situations where we’re able to force people’s hands sometimes. The more you can do around here and the more confusing you can get with veteran quarterbacks and good offensive coordinators, the better it is around here.”
Often employed on the edge earlier in the season, Hightower was utilized more in the middle in the Patriots’ 19-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 5.
Hightower said he saw sure signs of progress in the defense’s effort against the Buccaneers, a game in which the Patriots held their opponents to a season-low total in points.
“We’re building,” he said. “It’s a little later than we’d like to, but no time like the present.”
Light load on Thursday: With an extra day of practice (Tuesday; coming off the previous Thursday’s night game) to prepare for Sunday’s game with the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, the Patriots scaled Thursday’s workload back and conducted a walkthrough.
Once again, cornerback Eric Rowe (groin) was a non-participant.
Excused from Wednesday’s practice for a non-injury-related reason (the second straight week that’s occurred), offensive tackle Nate Solder was back on the practice field.
Quarterback Tom Brady (left shoulder), running back Rex Burkhead (ribs), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (thigh), Hightower (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (ankle) and wide receiver Matthew Slater (hamstring) were all limited.
Running back Bilal Powell (calf) and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder/toe) did not practice for the Jets.
Defensive lineman Kony Ealy (shoulder) and running back Matt Forte (knee/toe) were limited.
Squad moves: The Patriots signed linebacker Trevor Reilly and tight end Will Tye to the practice squad, creating room for them by releasing safety Alex Carter and placing offensive lineman Cole Toner on the practice squad injured reserve list.
Chasing 187: A win on Sunday would be the 187th regular-season victory of Brady’s career (186-54), breaking a tie for the NFL record for wins by a starting quarterback he currently shares with Brett Favre (186-112) and Peyton Manning (186-79).
Brady has made more regular-season starts (30) against the Jets than any other team in the league, posting a 23-7 record versus them over his 18-year career, completing 633-of-1,020 passes (62.1 percent) for 7,114 yards and 44 TDs with 13 interceptions in that time for a passer rating of 91.9.
Solder seeking to improve: Speaking to the media earlier this week, Solder admitted he’s been struggling at left tackle.
“My goal right now is just to improve every week,” said Solder. “I haven’t had a lot of great plays and I’ve had some bad plays and I’ve got to minimize those and start playing good and doing what I’m capable of doing and playing with this group and just improving every week.”