You probably have heard the story by now: an abondoned and damaged car, registered to (now former) New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, was found by Massachussetts State Police yesterday. Today, the team cut the five-year veteran. We do not yet know any further details.
We do know, however, that by releasing Spikes the Patriots have shaken up their linebacker depth chart. Let's take a look at how this transaction affects the position group.
Using Rich Hill's "Camp Competition"-series as a starting point, we find out that Spikes never was a lock to make the roster. As Rich writes, "Spikes offers little value on special teams, so his best chance of making the roster would be for Hightower to start his season on the PUP list, or for Mayo to not be at full strength". As can be seen, cutting Spikes does not influence the top of the linebacker group but rather its depth.
Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo are and always have been the undisputed starters and form one of the better linebacking corps in the entire league. However, Hightower and Mayo are both coming off injury and have not participated in the team's recent OTA workouts. Both are Pro Bowl-worthy all-around linebackers, who excel against the run. Enter Brandon Spikes, who would have helped lessen the blow of a potential early season absence and/or rustiness by either of the two starters.
Spikes' forte has always been run defense, so this would have been the area he could have helped. Without him, the Patriots may have to look elsewhere to provide depth. At first glance, the team does not have a player with Spikes' (or Hightower's and Mayo's) run stopping abilites currently on its roster.
Should we worry, though? No.
As said above, Spikes was never a lock to even make the Patriots' 53-man roster. He would have helped during training camp, to provide depth and lessen the workload of the (rehabbing) starters. Without him, another, most likely younger player will get those reps and show that he is worthy of a spot on New England's 2015 squad. Sure, it would have been nice to have a player of Spikes' run stopping ability, swagger and experience on the team, but, from a football-only-perspective, his release is not that big of a deal.
"Next man up" has always been one of Bill Belichick's favorite mantras and it will once again be applied after Spikes' cut. The next player has to step up, earn practice and playing time and make New England quickly forget about the short second time that Brandon Spikes was part of the team's roster. It has always been like that.
The reset Patriots' linebacker depth chart (using Rich's metrics) looks as follows:
Roster locks: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo
Bubble players: Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Darius Fleming, Jonathan Freeny, Dekoda Watson, Matthew Wells, James Morris
Camp bodies: Eric Martin.