While Dont’a Hightower is expected to take over Brandon Spikes‘ role with the New England Patriots, it will probably be Jamie Collins who takes Spikes’ starting spot. Collins was used sparingly over the first half of the season, but he has started to appear more over the second half. He could very well be the most athletic inside linebacker on the Patriots.
This is all very surprising considering that Collins was drafted as a pass rusher out of the University of Southern Missouri. While there, Collins was arguably the best player on a bad team. The only thing that made Collins a second-round pick was his workout numbers.
And that is where the athleticism comes in. Collins is a very explosive athlete whether it is rushing the passer or moving sideline-to-sideline. Once Jerod Mayo went down for the season, Matt Patricia decided to try to tinker with Collins, promoting him from a backup to a sub-package inside linebacker.
That seemed to be the perfect role for Collins as he was allowed to use his athletic ability to make plays in space. The rookie linebacker looked very good in coverage, enough so that Patricia pretty much platooned Collins with Spikes. Spikes would handle first and second-down (which are considered base downs), and then Collins would come in on third-down (a passing down).
So this is why Patriots fans should not be concerned. Collins is a coverage linebacker and will likely stick to such even if he gets more snaps. That would take some of the pressure off of Hightower, who should not be asked to cover very often. The two linebackers can play off of each other which means that they should be fine in the playoffs.
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.