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Belichick: Brandon Spikes improving, but ‘he’s still got a long way to go’

10.12.11 at 8:43 pm ET
By

Brandon Spikes (AP)

FOXBORO — On Tuesday, Bill Belichick talked about the growth of second-year linebacker Jermaine Cunningham. On Wednesday, the topic was another second-year defender out of Florida, Brandon Spikes.

Both ex-Gators got off to a good start as rookies, but several events have conspired to stall their growth in 2011. For Cunningham, it’s been a combination of injury, New England’s move to a four-man front and the emergence of some veterans. As for Spikes, he’s also been slowed by many of the same things.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Spikes, who sat out the regular-season opener because of a lingering ankle injury, missed so much time this summer that the “last three weeks kind of have almost been like his preseason, unfortunately.”

“I think that practicing on a daily basis, playing on a regular basis, that that’s what he needed to do. I think he still has a long way to go,” Belichick said of the 24-year-old, who has 20 tackles (13 solo) through four games this season.

“He’s probably where a lot of our players were in September, just because he missed all of August. His timing, his overall reaction, his execution, all those things, they’re OK, they are coming along. I’d like to think they’ll be better now that he’s starting to get into game shape and reacting like you have to react on a football field, both mentally and physically.”

Through the first 12 games of the 2010 season, the second-round pick out of Florida was making a name for himself as one of the best young linebackers in the AFC as a rookie before he was hit with a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. He returned for the playoff game against the Jets, but was clearly rusty because of his time away. That carried over into training camp this summer, where he was slow out of the gate.

He’s come on lately, however — according to Pro Football Focus, his snap percentage has risen dramatically over the last four games. After missing the opener and seeing just 26 percent of the action in Week Two against the Chargers, he was on the field for 68 percent of the defensive snaps in Week Three against the Bills, 65 percent in Week Four against the Raiders and 98 percent this past week against the Jets.

“He’s doing some good things, and he’s still got a long way to go,” Belichick said. “The fact that he’s been out there finally on a consistent basis to practice and play — nothing has helped him more than that.”

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