Another player for the New England Patriots has hit injured reserve in advance of the AFC Divisional Round Game against the Indianapolis Colts. This time it was inside linebacker Brandon Spikes, who has officially been diagnosed with a season-ending knee injury. While his name is big, Spikes is not a perfect player.
Let us start with what Spikes does well. He is one of the best run-stuffing inside linebackers in the NFL. He constantly launches himself up the field to get at an opposing running back, and usually succeeds at doing so. Spikes’ ability to blow through interior offensive linemen is certainly uncanny.
However, what Spikes lacks is true athletic ability. The run-stuffing linebacker is often removed from the field on third down, as he is not trusted to stay on the field and cover. This was why Spikes was not drafted until the end of the second round, despite having a storied career at the University of Florida.
Having Spikes on the field at the same time as Dont’a Hightower certainly hurts the Patriots. Although the two are big, imposing inside linebackers, they both lack the ability to consistently drop back in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks would often target both of them in coverage during the regular season, and that became a problem for the Patriots.
Jamie Collins might be the next man up with Spikes gone, which is certainly an upgrade in athletic ability. The rookie linebacker has shown the ability to make plays in coverage, which goes a long way in complimenting the run-stuffing Hightower. With Collins and Hightower in the same lineup, Matt Patricia would have two linebackers that balance each other out.
So, this is why losing Spikes is bad, yet good at the same time. He could really punish opposing running backs, but would be screwed if a quarterback decided to drop back and throw it his way. So, while losing a physical linebacker hurts, it also paves a way for a more athletic linebacker to take Spikes’ place.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.