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Belichick praises versatility of Jones, Hightower

Back in in the spring of 2012, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower were tied together as New England's pair of first-round draft picks.

Sunday afternoon in the 30-7 bounce-back victory in Minnesota the young defenders were tied together again, this time atop the stat sheet with their extremely impressive performances in beating the Vikings.

Each notched a pair of sacks. Each tied for a team high with eight tackles. Jones added an extra tackle for a loss. Hightower a pass defense.

And of course Jones had one of the biggest special teams plays of the day with a second-quarter blocked field goal that he scooped up and returned 58 yards for the touchdown.

Jones found his productive groove with a return to the edge of the defensive front in Week 2, that after spending much of the time in Miami as a 3-4 end.

Hightower hit his stride by moving all around the defensive front, utilizing his skills in various schematic looks.

Both displayed their characteristic unique athletic versatility to make life tough on Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel. In doing so, they made life much easier for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

The New England head coach certainly appreciates those impressive, versatile skills that both players bring to the field as well as the game plan process.

"It's certainly a lot easier as a coach to use those type players," Belichick said in his Monday morning conference call of his two young defensive stars in. "I think the big thing is for guys like High and Chandler, Rob [Ninkovich], Jerod [Mayo], is to work on all their skills, not just work on one thing, whether it's rushing over the tackle or rushing over the guard, pass coverage, jamming the receiver. All the different things they have to work at to really take pride in developing all of their skills. I think Chandler and Dont'a have done a great job of that. They've improved this year but over the course of since they've been here, came in together, they've worked hard at being versatile players and being able to do different things to help our defense."

Not only was that a factor against a Vikings offense that was trying to find itself playing without Adrian Peterson, it will be a major boon for Belichick's defense moving forward against the many diverse looks modern NFL offenses will throw at New England.

"It's huge when you have guys like that that can play multiple roles because we see different things from the same team but we certainly see different things week to week from the offenses," Belichick continued. "To play a spread game, to play a power game, to play a play-action passing game or drop-back game or spread game or screen game or combinations of all those things, to deal with big, power backs, to deal with guys who are fast like [Jerick] McKinnon yesterday, the versatility of those players is huge, a huge asset for our defense. A think a number of the guys that we have on our defense that can do that, like Devin [McCourty] who is a former corner playing safety and Jerod and Dont'a and Rob and guys like that really, really help your defensive flexibility and your ability to match up against different looks and personnel groupings on offense."

Jones and Hightower were brought in three years ago to be key figures in the foundation of the New England defense. They bring unique skill sets to the front and that makes life easier as the coaches work each week to stop opposing attacks.

It was certainly a major factor in the win over the Vikings on Sunday.

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