BY DAN BEGNOCHE
The Buffalo Bills have already sustained all the setbacks they would like at the linebacker position this season. Should any more befall the unit, though, veteran Brandon Spikes thinks they’ll be just fine.
With Kiko Alonso — the team’s defensive quarterback last year — out for the season with a knee injury, it’s been Spikes who’s taken on the leadership role for the unit.
A slew of youngsters have joined just a small group of linebackers with significant in-game experience, and the whole squad has been tasked with learning a new schematic under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Now a couple weeks into training camp and a few days removed from the team’s first preseason game, Spikes likes what he sees so far from the budding group of enthusiastic linebackers.
“They are very smart players, for them to be as young as they are,” Spikes told buffalobills.com. “I feel like, physically and mentally, they can do it all as far as being able to interchange with each linebacker position. They’ve been doing a great job.
“I’m kind of impressed with them in the way they’re taking in the new scheme. It’s fun to see how they get in and carry themselves like professionals. We definitely can count on those guys if somebody goes down.”
Rookies Randell Johnson, Preston Brown, Xavius Boyd and Jimmy Gaines all recorded tackles against the Giants Sunday, with Johnson leading the group (6). Sophomore Jacquies Smith tallied two tackles (one for a loss), while some of the elder members of the group — Keith Rivers and Nigel Bradham — contributed, as well.
Overall, Spikes was impressed with his first-team unit, who shut down New York's top crew in its first two drives, while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done across the board.
“I think the defense, as far as the first unit, went out and dominated," Spikes said. "As far as the whole defense, I think we definitely have some improvement, some stuff we need to clean up. Like I said, it was good to see the young guys go out there and compete.
“Like I said, we’ve just got to keep working.”