Quick-hit evaluations on LBs

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
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Continuing our scouting reports of the Patriots' 53-man roster with a look at linebackers.

Jerod Mayo (6-1, 250)

Strengths: A quarterback on the field. Excellent communicator. Excels in taking on blocks and shedding. Plays well going downhill and with a lot of thump. Reliable tackler, can move sideline-to-sideline, and can play any of the three linebacking roles. Has shown an improved ability to defend the pass. A player with very few holes in his game.

Limitations: Not many, as he has worked hard and improved as a pass defender. Has piled up tackles, but forced a surprisingly low number of turnovers in four seasons (just 6). Nonetheless, a key cog in the Patriots defense and a do-everything linebacker and leader.

Brandon Spikes (6-2, 255)

Strengths: Plays fearless. Loves contact. A hard-nosed downhill player who takes on blocks relentlessly. Good force tackler, and a guy who sets a tone on defense. A high-energy guy who seems to have infectious personality on the field.

Limitations: Needs to stay on the field. Has dealt with various injuries throughout early part of career, and served a suspension as well. Not the rangiest player, and is a work in progress at defending the pass. Lacks the reactive athleticism to consistently stay with and cover tight ends up the seam and backs creeping out of the backfield.

Dont'a Hightower (6-3, 270)

Strengths: Big-bodied linebacker who can align all over the field on defense. Very smart and a natural learner. Can play inside and outside, and can rush the passer as an end in sub defense. Has extremely good instincts and will sniff out screens. Forceful tackler and very good re-router. Advanced understanding of the game for his experience level.

Limitations: A little tight in his movements, and a good but not great athlete overall. Not a top coverage linebacker, but has lateral quickness and agility overall. Can improve his ability to open his hips and get depth in his drops.

Mike Rivera (6-2, 255)

Strengths: Strong, physical player who had a very productive training camp. Not afraid to take on blocks and has good bulk in his frame to absorb a blow and shed. Tough, reliable tackler who has good nose for the ball.

Limitations: Not a very fluid athlete or one you want covering receivers in space. Has sufficient speed to move sideline-to-sideline. Best suited to play inside. Mechanical in his movements and limited on special teams as well. A depth-level linebacker.

Tracy White (6-0, 235)

Strengths: Good move-in-space athlete who can cover good ground. A very good special-teams player. Can cover in the passing game, and has range, good instincts and toughness.

Limitations: Has a slight build (just 6-feet, 235 pounds). Not a run-stuffing linebacker and is best suited on the weak side. Not going to stack and shed and fight off blocks consistently. Can be bottled up by linemen. Best-suited as a core special-teamer and reserve 'backer.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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