The New England Patriots have a lot of question marks heading into 2013, especially at wide receiver. With these offensive uncertainties, more of the load will have to rest on the Patriots defense to win games this year. With the defense having steadily improved the last few years, they may be starting to turn the corner, finally proving that their defense can be elite this year. Part of that elite transformation on defense will have to come from LB Brandon Spikes.
In his three years as a starting linebacker for the Patriots, Spikes’ play has been average overall. He has flashed some potential defending the running game, delivering some hard hits to opposing running backs in his career, but has been abysmal defending the pass. He has been caught out of position frequently and does not possess the speed necessary to recover any lost ground. With that said, Spikes has been working hard on becoming a complete football player so far in camp this year. His goal and expectation for 2013 is to be a three down player. Simply put, he has been working on his coverage skills throughout camp hoping that he won’t have to come off the field in pass coverage situations.
Besides having certain deficiencies in his game, Spikes has had trouble staying on the field since being drafted by the Patriots in 2010. Whether it be due to injuries or NFL drug policy violations (Spikes was suspended four games his rookie year for testing positive for Adderall), Spikes has missed his fair share of games since entering the NFL. In his three years with the Patriots, Spikes has yet to play a full season, playing in 35 out of a possible 48 games. With that being the case, some of the games he missed were circumstantial (the suspension), and I do believe that he will figure out how to stay on the field now and in the future.
The player they call “The Sandman” for putting players to sleep with hard hits, as Patriots announcer Scott Zolak has so eloquently stated, will not have the luxury of sleeping this season for the Patriots. If his play falls short again, he may find himself playing for another team next year, as his contract with the Patriots is set to expire at the end of the season. Keeping in mind that he is playing the 2013 season on a contract year, Spikes should be able to have a great season, barring a serious injury, on a defense that is getting better by the day. Expect the linebacker to give it everything he’s got in 2013.