Brandon Spikes has been called “arguably the most physical and violent inside linebacker’’ in the NFL by NFL Films guru Greg Cosell.
The answer quickly became clear, as the Patriots began to employ more and more of a hybrid style of defense, implementing both looks into their scheme in 2010. He played 13 games, starting eight, and participated in 39.8 percent of snaps in the games he played in.
When the Patriots defense shifted to a base 4-3 look to accommodate a shorter offseason workout program due to the lockout, Spikes' importance and role only grew further. He played in eight games during the regular season as a true middle linebacker, starting six games at the spot. He continued to start when the defense switched back to the 3-4 during the playoffs.
Regardless of front, his presence was huge for the Patriots' run defense in 2011. They allowed an average of 109 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry with him in the lineup, as opposed to 150 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry without him. He had 56 total tackles during the regular season and had a key interception in the AFC Championship Game that helped send the team to the Super Bowl.
He did it all while battling injuries all season long.
An ankle injury kept Spikes out in Week 1. He played 52.9 percent of the snaps from Weeks 2 to 4 and played a whopping 83.4 percent of snaps in the four games that followed. But he left in the second half of the fourth game (against the Giants) with an MCL injury, which kept him out from Weeks 10 to 16. He was eased back into the lineup in Week 17 before playing 80.5 percent of snaps in three playoff games.
Although his effectiveness didn't suffer for his injury, it required surgery in the offseason. But he put some worries to rest regarding his recovery.
"It's going good. I'm just re-habbing, trying to get better, staying on top of it. I had surgery a couple weeks ago. This was like my first surgery ever. But it's going well," he said.
It may be his first surgery ever, but if he goes as hard in rehab as he does on the field, he should be good to go in no time. The sooner he gets back to full health, the better off the Patriots defense will be.
The Patriots love their scheme versatility, and Spikes gave them the ability to be flexible up front all season. Whether it's a 3-4, 4-3 or some combination of the two, Spikes' presence will help the team implement their scheme in 2012.