FOXBOROUGH — Dont’a Hightower is looking to knock off a little more than rust Sunday when the Patriots face the Jets in a matinee.
Hightower, who opted out of the 2020 season, was critical of his play in the opener — his first game in 20 months — when he played 42 of 54 defensive snaps and collected four tackles.
“We didn’t get the win, that’s the most important thing,’’ Hightower said. “Win or lose, I always look for room for improvement, and that’s obviously there. I pride myself on being, not the smartest guy, but I definitely want to push up my awareness as far as situational awareness goes. Just all around, I want to play better, obviously. It’s coming along, but obviously I want to play a lot better, be a little bit more impactful.’’
Known for his explosiveness to the ball and explosiveness through the ball carrier, he acknowledged he wasn’t quite up to speed. He also knows it’s not time to push the panic button.
“It’s Week 1 and we’re still growing, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it,’’ he said. “But obviously, the more guys that play the best that they can, that helps out the team, so I want to do a little bit better than that.’’
Fellow captain James White believes Hightower is the same player who has helped lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles.
“It doesn’t look like he missed a year — he’s working hard,’’ said White. “He’s a very versatile football player. He can cover, rush, destroy blockers, is good in the run game and pass game. So, it’s definitely good to have him back out there.’’
Anderson in touch
It’ll be old home week for Patriots defensive end Henry Anderson, who spent the last three seasons with the Jets, piling up 8½ sacks. Anderson said he still keeps in touch with several former teammates and he has passed on some knowledge to his new ones this week, though it’s been limited because the changes on the New York staff have been multifold.
“Obviously the staff that I was with the last couple years is all pretty much gone. [Brant] Boyer’s still the special teams coach, but offensively it’s more of like me just kind of knowing certain tendencies of guys that I’m playing against, stuff like that,’’ he said. “Obviously, the offensive coaching staff that was there is gone. It’s an all-new system, so it’s more so just knowledge of guys and how they play.”
Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne also has a Jets connection. The club’s offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, was Bourne’s receivers coach in San Francisco the last few years.
“He brought me in, coming into my first few years in the league,’’ said Bourne, an undrafted free agent who signed with the 49ers in 2017. “So, he kind of made me who I am, where I’m at now. He helped me get to this point, so I’ve got a lot of respect for those coaches over there, and what they’re doing for the organization.’’
Van Noy ruled out
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (throat) was the lone player not spotted at practice and he has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a throat injury. Kicker Quinn Nordin (abdomen) didn’t practice either and also is out. There was good news on the injury front as right tackle Trent Brown, who hurt his calf early against the Dolphins and sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, returned. He was limited and is questionable for the game. Same goes for tight end Jonnu Smith (hip), offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (hamstring), and linebacker Ronnie Perkins (shoulder). Receiver Nelson Agholor (ankle), defensive back Jalen Mills (ankle), and safety Kyle Dugger (wrist) were full participants … Cornerback J.C. Jackson said he “can’t wait to guard” Jets ace receiver Corey Davis and he tapped into a teammate for some helpful guidance. “Davis is their go-to guy. He’s a playmaker, man,’’ he said. “Of course I have been talking to Stephon Gilmore about how he played him, what’s his favorite routes and stuff like that. So, I’ll try to add some of those tips to my game.” … Bill Belichick is 96-35 against the AFC East, including 32-10 against the Jets, during his tenure as Patriots coach.