FOXBORO -- Jerod Mayo was slow to respond when asked just what the Patriots linebacker group will miss most now that Brandon Spikes is playing in Buffalo.
"I guess all the jokes in the meetings," Mayo said finally. "Brandon is a great player. Obviously he's not with us anymore. He brought a physicality to the game that's kind of unprecedented as far as in the run game. He's a good player. But at the end of the day, he's not a Patriot right now. We're gonna work with the guys we have in our room."
No one would argue that Spikes was a big personality in the Patriots locker room and a disruptive force in defending the run.
In Spikes, the Patriots had a middle linebacker who played on the edge. He hit up to -- and sometimes after -- the whistle. He was unapologetic about his intentions to be a violent, punishing tackler. And few Patriots players, if any, liked to talk trash as much as he did.
But Mayo seemed to reject the assertion that Spikes gave New England's defense an air of confidence -- or a "swagger."
"Did he bring a lot of swagger?" Mayo asked. "What is swagger? Tell me that. I always get confused when a 30-plus year old man brings up the word 'swagger.' I don't even use that word. I'm 28, I'm 28 years old. What is swagger. Is it a visor? A bandana?"
Spikes, of course, wore both during his time in New England.
"I think all the guys, if you prepare during the week, you have confidence to go out there and perform on Sunday," Mayo added. "Obviously not everything is going to go the way that you draw it up, but if you prepare during the week, it'll all be good."
The Patriots are relatively thin at linebacker on their depth chart. After Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, proven talent at that position is lacking.
Hightower has flashed enough versatility in his two seasons that he may be able to take Spikes' vacated role in the middle of the New England defense. But even if the Patriots find a replacement, Spikes' presence could be missed by a team that ranked 30th in run defense last season.
Mayo wouldn't go that far.
"I think we have guys in the room that are able to play the game the way it's supposed to be played," Mayo said, "and [will] go out there and make the same plays."