BY NICK ST. DENIS
Brandon Spikes, one of the New England Patriots' starting inside linebackers, has played in just 20 regular-season games over the past two seasons -- his first two years in the NFL.
He then played Weeks 2 through 9 (with a bye Week 7) in 2011 before being sidelined for seven games to injury. Spikes returned to the field Week 17 and went on to have a big postseason, recording 26 tackles, a sack, an interception and two passes defensed.
The Patriots need Spikes to carry that momentum into 2012. The third-year 'backer, coming off knee surgery, is trying to do just that.
"I feel like I'm getting better; learning the differences of the defense," Spikes told the media Tuesday, "where I'm supposed to be and where the next guy is.
"Being the middle linebacker I've got to kind of direct guys and it's coming a lot easier this year, so hopefully I can just keep getting better."
Spikes, who didn't play in the team's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, reportedly had a very active Tuesday in practice, and he plans on staying aggressive going into the regular season and beyond.
"That's my nature," Spikes said. "Be aggressive, be a shark – it's shark week so you know, of course."
Spikes was referring to the Discovery Channel's annual "Shark Week" series, of course.
New England's defense was injected with some youth via the draft, as the Patriots added first-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower to the mix in the front seven. Jones had a stellar debut last week, and Spikes thinks the youngsters in general are coming along.
"I think we're doing a great job," Spikes said. "A lot of young guys are coming in, making plays; they're high energy guys, flying around [and] that's great. They're catching on to the defense and it's good, we can just build from there.
"So I think we're having a good camp defensively."
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