Things have changed with Jerod Mayo out with a torn pectoral muscle for the season. The Patriots have begun to rely heavily upon linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, both of whom had seen reduced snaps at the beginning of the season as the team opted for more defensive backs in sub packages.
Spikes has been fantastic in run support, with only one missed tackle all season. He has 53 combined tackles and an interception. He's not asked to rush the quarterback much, just 39 times this season, and has shown improvement year over year in the passing game.
Hightower has been productive with 51 combined tackles and a sack, proving himself to be one of the more solid outside linebackers in the league given the amount of snaps he has played (502).
Rookie Jamie Collins has had trouble in the running game and despite the opportunities afforded him with the loss of Mayo, he saw his snap count reduced to two plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers after a season-high 25 snaps against the Miami Dolphins. He has seven tackles this season and three tackles for a loss.
Backup Dane Fletcher has seen an increased role in dime packages with Mayo out, recording a single sack the past two weeks.