Monday, June 2, 2014

Spikes hoping to get all he can from Schwartz's 4-3 set


Since 2010, the name of the game in Buffalo, at least defensively, has been adaptation.

Starting with George Edwards’ arrival in 2010 under former head coach Chan Gailey, there have been four different defensive coordinators for the Bills in five years, all with their own way of doing things.

In his two years at the helm, Edwards ran a 3-4 scheme, while his successor, Dave Wannstedt, ran a traditional 4-3. Then came Mike Pettine with his hybrid scheme, which was extremely successful (at least against the pass) for his brief stint.

Now, Jim Schwartz will move the squad back to his version of the 4-3, where he hopes to fill the gaps in last year's run-stopping deficiencies while also keeping the pressure in the backfield comparable to 2013.

Communicating the nuances of those system changes takes time, and it starts at OTAs. In charge of the on-field communication is typically the team's middle linebacker, which last year was rookie Kiko Alonso. The acquisition of Brandon Spikes has also altered that dynamic, however, and it'll be Spikes making the calls this year. 

So how are those initial exchanges going between the new linebacker and his crew? Veteran Kyle Williams, who's been around for all those aforementioned changes in defensive leadership, thinks he's doing just fine.

"He’s enthusiastic about it," he told A.J. Devine of "He gets the calls out fast. We had one little bobble out there. He came over and said, ‘This is what I made the mistake on. I’ll get it right.’ Which is something I appreciate.

"He’s a professional. He’s here to play and he’s here to win."

If all goes as planned, Spikes not only will get a chance to play, but be fairly successful in the process.

Stephen Tulloch, who was Schwartz's middle linebacker in both Tennessee and Detroit, has racked up an average of 128 combined tackles since 2009, with a total of 10 sacks. He finished fourth among all 4-3 middle linebackers last season in terms of production, according to ProFootballFocus, tallying 135 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks.

Spikes, who's yet to break more than 100 tackles in a season in his career, is hoping a shift to Schwartz's system pushes his talents to the next level.

"I’m just fortunate enough to be here and play in his scheme," he said. "With the middle linebacker, all the guys in the past have thrived in this defense. So hopefully I’m fortunate enough to play at a high level in it as well."

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