Sports Q: Who is the Patriots’ best linebacker?

Is it Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins or Kyle Van Noy?

Kyle Van Noy (top) dives to score a touchdown in the Patriots win over the Giants on Thursday.
Kyle Van Noy (top) dives to score a touchdown in the Patriots win over the Giants on Thursday. –AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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Who is the Patriots’ best linebacker?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower have played at an extraordinary individual level, and as a unit, the whole group has been exceptional.

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With Elandon Roberts, Ja’Wuan Bentley, John Simon, and Chase Winovich, it’s one of the deepest and highest-quality linebacker groups they’ve ever had, and they’ve had some good ones.

The best I can recall in the old-school division was the ’83 team with Andre Tippett, Steve Nelson, Don Blackmon, Clayton Weishuhn, Larry McGrew and Johnny Rembert. The best of this dynasty era probably came in the 2001-04 seasons, with Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer, Mike Vrabel, Bryan Cox for a year, and Willie McGinest at least part of the time. (I’ve never really known whether to call him an end or a linebacker. He was just a menace.)

The 2007 group got a Sports Illustrated cover, but some of those guys were past their peak, and Adalius Thomas wasn’t as good or committed as we thought.

Anyway, that’s a tangent. The best player this year in this group? I don’t think you can go wrong between Collins and Van Noy, and I’m not going to argue with you if say Hightower just because he’s made so many big plays through the years and has been great when healthy this season.

Van Noy has been all over the place. Thursday night he returned a fumble forced by Collins for a touchdown. He has 3.5 sacks, and leads the Patriots with 7 QB hits. He’s forced two fumbles and recovered one. This guy is a star.

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But the pick just has to be Collins. I’m not sure there’s been a better defensive player in the league this year. He’s an electrifying playmaker with the statistics to confirm. He leads the Patriots with 4.5 sacks, has 3 interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown), has a team-best 6 tackles for a loss, and is tied with Deatrich Wise Jr. with 6 QB hits.

Actually, that was pretty easy. As great as Van Noy and Hightower have been, the choice is Collins.

But what does everyone else think? Who is the Patriots’ best linebacker? Does anyone believe it’s not Collins at this point? I’ll hear you in the comments.