New England Patriots star linebacker Jerod Mayo has manned the “WILL” position over the past couple of seasons when Brandon Spikes was manning the “MIKE” as a vicious run-stuffer, but it looks like Mayo could move back inside with Spikes gone and the more versatile and well-rounded Jamie Collins set to start. Ourlads.com has Mayo listed as the Patriots starting middle linebacker on their depth chart, with Collins playing on the weak side and Dont’a Hightower still entrenched on the strong side as he heads into his third season in the league.
According to NE Patriots Draft’s Mike Loyko, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak that he’s “hearing” Mayo will kick inside as the team’s starting middle linebacker next season with Collins taking his place on the outside instead of simply replacing Spikes as the “MIKE”. It’s a move that would make sense, given that Mayo can operate as the quarterback of the defense from directly in the middle and showcase his skills there again, while Collins can blitz more often on the outside and better use his unique speed there. Playing Collins as the WLB would give him more matchups against running backs in pass coverage, and he’s the linebacker best-equipped to handle such assignments.
Mayo recorded 55 tackles in six appearances last season before tearing his pectoral in a Week 6 win over the New Orleans Saints, and he’s one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Blessed with great range, Mayo brings crucial leadership skills to the table, and he’s an adept delayed blitzer who won’t embarrass himself in coverage either. The Patriots starting linebacker trio is one of the best in the league on paper (as usual), and playing Mayo inside and Collins on the weak side makes plenty of sense to me.