by Mario Granata and Paul Wanecski
While there was much made of the resigning of Brandon Spikes after the injury bug bit the Buffalo Bills linebacker core, little has been made about the signing of David Hawthorne. Here at Hashtag Sports, we take a look at both signings and see which will be the more productive player and why. Where do you stand?
The signing of both Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne were crucial to the Bills since the current injury situation has reared its ugly head. While it seems much more apparent that the Bills will go with the combination of Brown (Preston and Zach) the latter happens to be more of a passing down linebacker, so who will fill the role of the run stopper on first and second down for the Bills while they get healthy: Hawthorne or Spikes? My edge will go to Spikes, and for three reasons.
Spikes is a leader and a champion. After winning two national titles at Florida, and playing for the New England Patriots, he brings a winning pedigree that many of the Bills players can gravitate toward. He is a voice on and on the field and has a general love for the Bills and the city of Buffalo. He has spent time in the league, has experience, and is 3 years younger than Hawthorne, a fact that shouldn't be overlooked.
Returning to the AFC East. Now, a lot has changed in the East over the 2015 season, but Spikes familiarity with the teams and the players should work to his advantage, especially when playing against New England. If you want to be considered the toughest guy in the yard, you have to take down the biggest bully, and New England has been that bully for quite some time. He will provide much needed intel to the players and can be a player who alone can switch the momentum of a game.
He's well rested. After a year off and away from the game, Spikes is not like any normal 28-year old linebacker and his ability to appreciate the second chance that he has been given could filter down to the younger players on the team. He has fresh legs, and is ready to get back to work for Buffalo in the role that they have for him. Also, the fact that he is on a one-year deal shouldn't be ignored either. While this doesn't give him a significant edge over Hawthorne, players, as history has shown, play surprisingly better when they are in the "final" year of their contract.
When Bills fans look at the signing of Brandon Spikes, it seems to carry far more weight compared to the free agent acquisition of inside linebacker David Hawthorne. While Spikes seems to have the fan advantage having been in Buffalo in 2014, a hole in the middle of the Buffalo defense is ready to be filled with either player. So who will come
out on top?
My guess is that Hawthorne will, even though he only started 5 games last year for one of
the worst defenses in NFL history in New Orleans. While the argument may be unpopular, it isn’t without justification. Hawthorne was released from New Orleans this
offseason for both performance and salary cap reasons. First round pick Stephone
Anthony took over the “Mike” inside linebacker role beating out the incumbent Hawthorne during the season. Hawthorne’s salary simply wasn’t what you pay a part-time player, so his release was imminent. Actually, Hashtag Sports “On The Clock” series of pre-draft articles suggested his release in 2014 and 2015 due to salary cap concerns. So why would I be suggesting now that he would be the one to come out on top?
First off, New Orleans is perennially in salary cap jail. To be perfectly honest, they are,
year-after-year, in a horrible position. Teams in bad shape with the salary cap have to cut
good players, and Hawthorne fits into that category. In 2014, Hawthorne was second on
the team in tackles, success that couldn’t be replicated in 2015 as New Orleans fell
further and further into that nightmarish year. Still, entering his age 31 season, Hawthorne
brings something that Brandon Spikes doesn’t; experience with the Rob Ryan. While the
system will not be what Rob Ryan ran while he was the defensive coordinator in New
Orleans, it was clear that Hawthorne understands how Rob communicates by his
performance in 2014. To be fair, NFL teams will typically roll out young stars to which
they have made large investments and a first round pick is exactly that. It was not a
surprise to see New Orleans start a young Anthony on the inside with what turned into an
awful season. Let’s not forget, when push comes to shove, Hawthorne at least played last
year, unlike Spikes.