FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes has clearly found himself in Bill Belichick‘s good graces.
Belichick glowed about Spikes on Thursday, running through a list of his accolades, comparing him to some very good players and detailing the positive aspects of his game. Spikes has been worthy of that praise of late, as his performance in the playoffs has played a key role in the improvement of New England’s defense.
“Brandon comes from a good background, good program, good defensive background,” Belichick said. “Like every other college player, what he saw in college and what he sees in the NFL are not quite the same thing relative to option offenses and the skill level of quarterbacks, particularly the intermediate passing game, things like that, different types of play action that we see relative to what colleges do for the most part. That’s been a big learning experience for him, but Brandon’s a very instinctive player, and he catches on quickly. He just kind of knows where the ball is, and sometimes it’s not exactly the way you would coach it in terms of the keys, and what his footwork, and steps and all that would be, but he has a good ability to find the ball and know where the play is — the interception he had last week, the one he had last year against the Jets on a similar type of play.”
Belichick compared Spikes’ size — he’s 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds — to that of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who starred for Belichick in New York and Cleveland.
“[Spikes] is tall like Pepper was,” Belichick said. “You don’t see a lot of inside linebackers with that kind of height, that 6-foot-4ish height. Most guys are a little more compact than that. He’s a pretty powerful guy for being that tall like Pepper was, but a lot of those explosive hitters are 6 feet, 6-foot-1, that type of guy. Urlacher is another. I’m just saying there aren’t a lot of them, and I think that’s a problem for the quarterback in terms of the passing game because of their length, their height, their range. They get their hands on a lot of balls, but again, kind of like Pepper, Brandon has power. He’ll go up and strikes with a good thump, whether it’s tackling or taking on blockers, that kind of thing.”
Spikes only played in eight regular-season games, and he missed seven straight down the stretch after injuring his knee against the Giants in Week 9, which derailed his midseason progression.
The 2010 second-round pick has picked it up in the playoffs, posting 16 tackles (six solo), one sack, two quarterback hits, one interception and one fumble recovery.
“He’s long, he’s powerful, he’s an explosive guy,” Belichick said. “He’s very instinctive, which is the biggest part of that position. The more you are in the middle of the field, the more guys there are around you, the more things you have to see, the more things that can happen. The better it is for those players to be able to sort it all out and figure out what’s going on. Sometimes that comes easier to some players than others. I think it comes relatively easy to him. He has a good sense for that.”