This was a position that was hit with the injury bug big time, as the leader of the second level to the defense, Jerod Mayo ended up tearing his pectoral muscle in the Patriots 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints week 6. On top of the Mayo injury, Brandon Spikes was fine to play in the season finale but once the playoffs hit he was out for the season with a “knee injury”.
This year the Patriots did make one impressive addition to the line backing core when they added veteran, James Anderson. What Jamie Collins showed when he got time to play makes you think he can be a player. Let’s dive into the Patriots linebacker depth heading into the 2014 season.
Weakside Linebacker) Jamie Collins
When this kid played this year he was absolute money. He showed that he has all the abilities to stop the run and to rush the passer which is a big money-making trait for a linebacker to have. I expect Collins to have a huge year.
My 2014 Jaime Collins Projection:
77(up 34) combined tackles, 6.0(up 6.0) sacks, 2(up 2) interceptions, 1(up 1) forced fumble and 1(-) fumble recovery
Note: He will also be a Pro-Bowler
Middle Linebacker) Jerod Mayo
Probably one of the Patriots most consistent players. He hasn’t turned into a play maker just yet but he stuffs the run pretty well and is a tackling machine. As of the week he got hurt he has played in 88.0% of the Patriots total defensive snaps since 2008. I expect Mayo to bounce back and have a big year as the anchor of the second line of defense here in New England.
My 2014 Jerod Mayo Projection:
165(up 110) combined tackles, 1.5(-) sacks, 0(-) interceptions, 1(up 1) forced fumble and 0(down 1) fumble recoveries
Note: He will also be a Pro-Bowler
Strongside Linebacker) Dont’a Hightower
Coming out of college this kid seemed to have all the promise to be one hell of football player. Injuries have caught up to the now third year player but he did have a under-the-radar season last year recording 97 tackles for New England. I expect Hightower to have a pretty good year coming up in 2014.
My 2014 Dont’a Hightower Projection:
15 games, 89(down 8) combined tackles, 2.0(up 1.0) sacks, 2(up 2) interceptions, 0(-) forced fumbles and 1(up 1) fumble recovery
Adding a former starter on the Chicago Bears defense was a huge signing this off season by the Patriots. Anderson is coming off a season where he recorded 102 tackles and 4.0 sacks. Anderson has a very good instinct at keeping the quarterback in the pocket and making his scramble around. Anderson also is a pretty good run stopper in his own right.
My 2014 James Anderson Projection:
77(down 25) combined tackles, 3.5(down 0.5) sacks, 0(-) interceptions, 0(-) forced fumbles and 0(down 1) fumble recoveries
This kid will be entering his second year and is a pretty good linebacker on passing plays. He is not a big name player but as of now the Patriots fifth best option at the linebacker position.
My 2014 Steve Beauharnais Projection:
19(up 18) combined tackles, 0.5(up 0.5) sacks, 0(-) interceptions, 0(-) forced fumbles and 0(-) fumble recoveries
Key losses at linebacker:
*Brandon Spikes: 2013 numbers 86 combined tackles, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery
*Dane Fletcher: 2013 numbers 26 combined tackles and 1 forced fumble
Linebackers on current roster who need to fight for their spot:
Patriots LB Depth Chart Grade and Reason: B
I give them a B at this position because although I am giving Collins high projection we haven’t seen him in a full season yet. Losing arguably one of the best run stopping linebackers in the entire NFL can’t put you in better shape going into the next season. Will Mayo be able to return to old form is a huge question and will Hightower hold up for a full season? As long as Mayo can stay healthy this linebacking core can be a serviceable unit together heading into next season.
Tags: Brandon Spikes Cameron Gordon Chris White Dane Fletcher Darius Flemming Deontae Skinner Dont'a Hightower Ja'Gared Davis James Anderson Jamie Collins Jerod Mayo Josh Hull Steve Beauharnais Taylor McCuller Taylor Reed