Meeting the New Patriots: Brandon Spikes

The Patriots were facing some depth issues within their linebacking core so they went out and added reinforcements in free agency. Sometimes the best free agents are the guys you know best, and Brandon Spikes is a prime example. Spikes was excellent for the Patriots before bolting to Buffalo and will be a good addition to a team in need of run stuffers.

When Brandon Spikes signed with the Bills last offseason, he didn't exactly go quietly. There were some harsh words spoken about the organization and their fans, not to mention a Twitter blockage of all thing Patriot by the bitter linebacker. Spikes started 10 of 16 games for the Bills, picking up 32 solo tackles, 22 assisted tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and three passes defended. When Bills coach Doug Marrone stepped down, things changed drastically for Spikes. Buffalo hired ex-Jets coach Rex Ryan, a coach that has no need for a linebacker like Spikes in the system he deploys. Spikes had only signed a one-year deal and now he was searching for a job again.

The phone wasn't ringing as much as one might expect for a young middle linebacker that is one of the better run defenders in the league, but that was the reality of the situation. The Patriots are facing a training camp that will feature Jerod Mayo returning from basically two full years of injuries, and Dont'a Hightower will be rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. It made sense for the Patriots to make a call to their former middle linebacker, so they did just that. One thing that can be said about the Patriots is they will forgive what players say if they can help the team. It occurred last year when they signed Revis and it's happened again with the return of Spikes.

Spikes is also showing growth here not just as a player but as a man; it had to be uncomfortable to come back for that first meeting but he stepped up and they resolved their differences. Good for the team and good for him. As far as the on the field effect, Spikes addition will go a long way towards helping a run defense that was average in 2014. When Vince Wilfork went down in 2013, Spikes was the guy who stepped up and led the run defense. Now Wilfork is gone to Houston and Spikes is going to face the same challenges he did in '13; he's good enough to get the job done again.

Spikes is from Shelby, North Carolina, and he attended Crest Senior High School in Shelby. Spikes was one of the top five middle linebackers in the country and was rated the 33rd overall player by Spikes was recruited by Alabama, N.C. State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Florida. Spikes chose Florida, and a big reason for choosing them was the opportunity to play with Tim Tebow, a quarterback he met on the recruiting trail. Spikes headed to Gainesville along with some of the best recruits in the country and began his career with Urban Meyer and the Gators.

As a freshman, Meyer didn't use a redshirt on Spikes, he let him play. Spikes appeared in nine games, starting one, and he finished the season with 15 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and two passes defended. In his lone start versus Western Carolina, Spikes had six tackles and one pass broken up. When Spikes entered his sophomore season, he was the main man in the middle, starting all 13 games and leading the Gator defense. Spikes finished with 131 total tackles (81 solo, 50 assists), 16 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three fumbles recovered, and seven passes defended. 2007 was actually Spikes best statistical season.

Spikes junior year wasn't quite as good statistically, but he was still one of the best linebackers in the country. He finished with 93 total tackles (52 solo, 41 assists), eight tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and six passes defended. Spikes was used more in pass coverage and his numbers bear that out; Spikes four interceptions and two touchdown returns were impressive for a linebacker, but those coverage skills he showed at Florida have not transferred to the NFL, where Spikes has struggled to cover.

Spikes continued to make plays all over the field as a senior. He finished 2009 with 68 tackles, six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, and two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns. After Spikes excellent career with the Gators, the Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

In four seasons with New England, Spikes started 39 out of 51 games, totaling 178 solo tackles, 118 assisted tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one pass defended, and one sack. Spikes dealt with some injuries during his first four years in New England, but he was able to tough it out to finish every season but one. He'll be welcomed back with open arms.

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