Takeo Spikes was arguably the defensive player of the year for the 49ers. He wasn't consistently the best, but he was definitely consistently top three - and he out-performed Justin Smith and Patrick Willis a few times throughout the year. Point is, he was basically more than you could ever ask for at the TED linebacker position. He was the starter, unquestioned even when the 49ers took NaVorro Bowman in the third round, considered a steal for the man who was as high as the middle of the first round on some teams' draft boards.
But about Bowman's year two? Spikes is a free agent and seems to be in a foul mood regarding the season and might not even want to come back to San Francisco, but what if he does - should the 49ers bring him back? Spikes is nearing that time where one might consider retiring, but he has expressed that he's nowhere near done - and his play on the field would seem to echo the sentiments.
On the field, Spikes was good for 109 tackles, nine pass deflections and three awesome interceptions. In San Francisco's week thirteen loss to the Green Bay Packers, Takeo was the only person I identified as not giving up. Everybody looked so beaten, but not Spikes. He was in on seventeen tackles and had a pass deflection. I saw him get in the face of the quarterback a couple times as well. He had, in my opinion, a Pro Bowl season as far as TED linebackers go. Unfortunate that they're not really taken into consideration for Pro Bowl voting
Spikes was not about to give his job up to NaVorro Bowman. He said something to the effect of not backing down and not being close to done at the beginning of the season when asked about Bowman. And in September, when there were talks of Mays and Bowman getting increased playing time, Spikes said that - as far as he knew - he was going to be the starter.
In October, there were talks of Takeo needing to be kept fresh, and I started to believe them. Spikes was adamant that this was not the case - he disagreed with Mike Singletary and the excuses that they needed Spikes to stay fresh for the playoffs - it was clear that they just wanted some more youth.
You want to save me for the rest of the season. But if we ain't winning, ain't nobody gonna be saved for the season, period.
That was basically true - when the 49ers played the Panthers, Spikes played a good portion of the game, but it was Bowman in there opposite Patrick Willis for the final drive. Bowman ended up surrendering a crucial third down reception, missed an important tackle on the Panthers running back (believe it was DeAngelo Williams) and was called for an illegal contact penalty. I would honestly say that playing Bowman instead of Spikes led to the 49ers losing that game.
The following weeks saw dramatically decreased playing time for Bowman, who did continue to shine on special teams and did come up big for the 49ers in week seventeen, a game the 49ers credited him with fifteen combined tackles. But Takeo came in and played like an absolute beast. He can cover, he can stop the run, he can apply pressure, and contrary to Singletary's media-handling: doesn't need to sit out possible game-winning drives.
I doubted Takeo for a short time because I was really hyped on Bowman - and I still am. I think Bowman will be our best draft pick for that draft, I've said this a thousand times and will continue to say it. But I'm not about to doubt Takeo Spikes again. Bowman played well in place of Willis, but he still has a ways to go before he can be a capable TED. I like him for one more year backing up Takeo and coming in on occasion ... just not on those final, possible game-winning drives from the opposition.