Patriots Off-Season: Monitoring the Progress of Brandon Spikes

Brandon Spikes Patriots

Through ups and downs, Brandon Spikes has still been great value as a late second-round pick. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

In 2010, the New England Patriots invested a second-round draft pick in Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. Three years have since passed, and the polarizing tackler is now entering the final chapter of his rookie contract.

Needless to say, 2013 is a big year for No. 55.

Spikes has trudged through his share of peaks and valleys during his time in Foxboro. And his unpredictability makes it all the more critical that he finishes his fourth season on a good note.

With that in mind, let’s track his development.

The First Three Years

In his initial NFL campaign, the 6’2”, 255-pounder played in 12 contests and started eight of them. He quickly asserted himself as a started inside New England’s 3-4 defensive front. Spikes finished 2010 fifth on the team with 71 tackles, also adding an interception and three passes defensed. Year one was not without a low point, however, as Spikes was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

That suspension somewhat tainted what was otherwise a very strong inauguration for the former Gators inside backer. That time off also slowed Spikes’s momentum heading into year two.
Well, so did injuries.

Spikes was inactive for the 2011 season opener before returning to play the next seven contests. It was then that Spikes strained his MCL and missed significant time. His second regular season consisted of eight games, six starts, 47 tackles and one pass defensed.
When he was finally healthy enough to return for the 2011 playoffs, Spikes made the most of the opportunity. The Shelby, N.C., native was second on the team in terms of playoff tackles, recording 27. Aside from wrapping up ball-carriers, Spikes also forced a fumble, picked off a pass and batted down two more. It was a time for redemption for Spikes. He was an integral part in why the Patriots landed in the Super Bowl that postseason.

The strong finish carried over to 2012. For the most part, Spikes was able to stay healthy and started 14 of the 15 regular season tilts he took part in. He amassed 92 tackles — a career high — along with a sack, five forced fumbles and seven pass deflections.
It was by far his most effective season to date. As a result, expectations are high moving forward. Can Spikes keep it all together in 2013?

Finding a Balance

Spikes has been coined a “Thumper” due to his downhill playing style. He’s got a wide base and strong arms but is speed deficient — he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.03 and 5.10 seconds at his pro day.

That doesn’t seem to bother him, as he told Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald that he plays faster than his straight-line speed suggests:
“They can just watch the film, and they can see it. Watch the film. ‘He doesn’t look like he’s running no 5.2 right here, a 5-flat. He’s beating people who run 4.6s, that cut 4.5s to the ball.’ I tell youngsters, just put it on tape and it speaks for itself.”
At least on tape, Spikes is the definition of a run-stuffer. He knows how to blitz and shoot the gaps. He’s an instinctual player can to read the pathways and use his deceptive explosion to break through the wall.

While his characteristics help him out in some circumstances, they also make him a liability in others. Spikes is largely considered a two-down linebacker because he’s a little behind the eight ball in regards to coverage.

He’s not going to venture sideline to sideline, he’s not going to cover tight ends or running backs, but he can disrupt some passing lanes due to his vision. Spikes is grooming into more of a well-rounded linebacker. Nonetheless, he does not appear to be the favorite to seize nickel coverage responsibilities next to Jerod Mayo.

After all, there are some quicker-footed linebackers in the fold who can step in and cover. That list includes 26-year-old Dane Fletcher, athletic second-round “Bandit” Jamie Collins, as well as seventh-round middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais.
Spikes is more two-dimensional than he was coming straight out of Gainesville. That said, there may be some better suited candidates for sub packages.

An Under-the-Radar Offseason in a Contact Year

You may have noticed that Spikes has kept a low profile this offseason. That’s been evident both on and off the field.
Spikes hasn’t turned to Twitter to voice his off-color humor since February 28. He also hasn’t turned to Gillette Stadium to work out voluntarily, either, cites Jeff Howe.

Spikes has essentially gone off the grid. And seeing how he’s in the final year of his deal, the timing is quite intriguing.
Working out in Foxboro during the offseason is not mandatory. Many notables have opted to stay in shape elsewhere under their own regimen. But it will be important to keep tabs on Spikes’s conditioning and overall polish with mini camp looming. A source told Howe that he will not be at organized team activities on May 21, May 29 and June 4, as he prefers to work out on his own.
In the meantime, there are some questions to ponder.

Will Spikes be able to stay healthy for a full 16-game season? Will he be productive versus both the run and the pass? And lastly, will he do enough to warrant an extended stay in New England?

Time will tell. All we can do is wait.

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8 Responses to “Patriots Off-Season: Monitoring the Progress of Brandon Spikes”

  1. acm says:

    wish he had done this earlier and not wait till the contract year:

    better late than never, I guess.

  2. JMC says:

    I was glad when the Patriots drafted Spikes and have had high hopes that he would succeed and to some extent he has; the defense is certainly more effective when he is playing well. But he is very inconsistent and I can’t help but think that he is a boarder line head-case.

    I’m thinking a part time run stopping MLB is a better option if they could find one- even this year-

  3. Matt says:

    I would hate to see spikes go because as every player on defense has said, he brings that intensity & furosity that no one else brings. He is electric while playing on 1st and 2nd down and brings a swagger to the defense that is hasn’t had for quite awhile. He will most likely leave for a bigger pay day but hopefully he will stay to form a young nasty defense like we had during the championship years. The market could also bring down how much he will make as a 2-down player which could hopefully help out the patriots.

    Replacement in the 2014 draft- CJ Mosely (BAMA)

    • pito says:

      pipe dream…no freaking way mosley falls to the end of round 1. i would love to see it happen, but it would take a massive injury or something similarly serious to make him fall that much. hope time proves me wrong though, i`d love to see him in foxboro 🙂

  4. Jim R says:

    I like Spikes. I also like the 3-4 package with him and Hightower behind Vince. He most likely will bolt for the payday

    • pito says:

      yup, he`ll most likely bolt..hence the beauharnais selection. they`re sorta similar players, with the edge of experience going to spikes, of course

  5. Trevor M. says:

    Spikes is a top-3 run defending LB, hands-down. If people doubt that, he will prove it this year again. However, I really hope he has been able to improve on his quickness/agility during the off-season. I’m not sure he will ever be able to cover even the average pass-catching TE/RBs but perhaps he will surprise his fans. I’m rooting for Spikes all the way.

  6. AM says:

    I’m sure that the Patriots would like to retain Spikes at the right price, but I think the value they place on him will be tied in to Jamie Collins’s development. If Collins shows early signs that he could start at OLB, that gives the team the opportunity to slide Dont’a Hightower over to MLB, and run with a Collins-Hightower-Mayo line going into next season. This furthers the goal of becoming more athletic and better at playing in space. If Collins looks more like a sub player or a full-time DE, however, the team almost certainly has to invest in Spikes, or look at another high-end draft pick in that spot.

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