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Ravens prepping for Patriots' linebacker tandem of Jamie Collins, Donta' Hightower

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker cannot hold onto the ball as New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins defends.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker cannot hold onto the ball as New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins defends. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

New England Patriots linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower emerged as high-level players this season.

They defined that old linebacker saying about being mobile, agile and hostile. Although he's 6-feet-3, 250 pounds, Collins is extremely athletic and versatile as a pass rusher, run-stopper and operating in pass coverage. The same statement could be said, to an extent, about Hightower, a physical 6-foot-3, 270-pound former Alabama standout.

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And the Patriots linebacker tandem is among the Ravens' top blocking priorities heading into Saturday night's AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium.

"They're very good," Ravens running back Justin Forsett said. "They have some special players over there. They're big guys that you would think they would just be one-dimensional, but those guys can do it all. They've got good pass-rush moves. They do a little bit of covering. They're really good players."

Collins led the Patriots with 109 tackles during the regular season, also recording four sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles with two fumble recoveries. Hightower had 92 tackles this season with six sacks and one forced fumble.

"Jamie is a good player," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He's had a lot of different responsibilities for us: playing inside, playing outside, nickel and dime situations, those roles have changed for him a little bit, too, based on a number of circumstances for us: scheme and other player availability and so forth.

"He's got a lot of versatility. He's a smart guy. He's able to handle quite a bit. He's got good physical skills to play the run, cover, rush the passer, play in-line, play in space. He's done a good job for us."

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