The Buffalo Bills need to shore up their run defense heading into the 2014 NFL season. This seems to be a common refrain heading into free agency and the draft through the last few years. Last year, rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso was a disruptive force inside, but the Bills have expressed an interest in moving him outside to keep the bigger bodies of offensive linemen off him.
Moving Alonso outside would leave a big hole at middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme. The Bills have already brought inside linebackers in for visits, like Jasper Brinkley and Jameel McClain. However, the best option out there could very well be a player that Bills fans are very familiar with and have a fairly intense dislike for.
The New England Patriots decided not to resign linebacker Brandon Spikes, who Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required) ranked as the best inside linebacker against the run in 2013. His split with the Patriots was not exactly amicable, stemming from a team decision to place him on injured reserve that he did not agree with. One of his former coaches, Pepper Johnson, is now the defensive line coach for the Buffalo Bills. Perhaps their respective issues with the Patriots could serve as impetus for Spikes to join a divisional rival?
The Buffalo News‘ Tim Graham described Spikes as, “An agitator type of guy you hate to play against but love on your side. He’d make the Bills better.” The Bills have lacked an edge on defense for a while now, and Spikes would certainly bring that edge back.
Eric Wood, Buffalo’s center, also spoke highly of Spikes in a Buffalo News article from September:
“Spikes is a physical player,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “He’s kind of an old-school, thumping linebacker, not one of those hybrid guys that you might see nowadays, where maybe he was a converted safety from college. He’s a true linebacker. I have a lot of respect for his game.”
Woods hinted at Spikes’ liability in coverage in that quote, which limits Spikes to typically playing on run downs. However, Pro Football Focus also took a look at Spikes as a pass rusher, where he might have some usefulness on passing downs:
“Spikes has also shown some ability as a pass rusher in the past too. In 2012 he finished with a sack, seven hits and six hurries.”
The Bills finished the season with the fifth-most rushing yards surrendered per game with 128.9. Perhaps adding Spikes will give the Bills problems in the passing game, but shoring up the run defense needs to be a priority. In free agency, there is no question that Brandon Spikes represents the best option for the Bills to do just that.