New England Patriots middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is heading into a contract year with something to prove, and he knows it. Spikes is one of the most explosive and vicious run defenders in the entire NFL, and that’s what makes him one of the best run-stuffing linebackers this league has to offer. However, as we saw last year, Spikes has major issues in pass coverage, and he skipped out on OTAs in order to train in Florida and become better in pass coverage. Spikes believes that his breakout third season in his career was due to training at that facility in Florida last offseason (possibly because the conditioning allowed him to stay healthy and miss just one game in 2012), and we’ll see if he is able to prove himself as a three-down linebacker in this league in 2013 and put himself in a position to get a big payday next offseason.
Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson compared Spikes to a former Patriots Pro Bowler in Bryan Cox, who, like Johnson, played in this league for 13 seasons. Johnson also had this to say about the sometimes enigmatic linebacker, via CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran,“First of all, it’s a different day and era. Some of the things that motivated us to go out and play the game don’t necessarily motivate a lot of the guys now and vice versa. His view and what wakes him up every morning and what shoes to put on and what shirt and all that stuff it might not be the same view as I (had). But when he steps out on the field that’s what really matters to me and his attitude on the football field is aggressive first and I’ll worry about all of the other things later. He plays the game like a linebacker’s supposed to.”
I think some people just blow things regarding Spikes out of proportion, such as his joke in December or the fact that he skipped out on OTAs. It’s funny looking back and thinking that some people believed he wanted to hold out, and it seems like players like Spikes who are wired differently just get their motives misconstrued.
Another young linebacker is making a name for himself in Foxboro early in training camp, and coaches and players alike are raving about Jamie Collins’s athleticism. He has the ability to be a hybrid DE/LB for this team, and his pass rushing ability and covering make him the kind of defensive weapon that the Patriots could really use. Collins seems to be one of Johnson’s favorite linebackers based on the praise he has been getting, and Collins has reportedly looked solid during camp.
Johnson said of Collins, via NESN, “Jamie understands how to play the deep ball because he played safety. I’m expected big things if a running back runs a wheel route on him. It’s stuff like that that’s a plus for us. That’s a plus for him. To put it that way. That he’s seen the game in so many different views that he understands it a lot better. I just have to figure out how to explain certain things to get it across, but once he gets a grasp on it, once he gets a few reps, he’s functional. He can go out and do it.”
Collins runs a sub-4.6 forty, which is quite fast, and he’s even more athletic than fast. This is guy who has a world of potential, and I am intrigued by what Pepper Johnson can get out of him, and it’s going to be fun to watch Collins develop under Johnson and hopefully become a force to be reckoned with and a versatile playmaker for the Patriots defense.