Future Focus: Inside linebackers

Tenth in a series of positional "look-aheads" for the Patriots:

Inside linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher

Stat check: Coaches credited Mayo with a team-high 193 tackles. The next highest total on the team was 89, by safety Patrick Chung.

First instinct: Mayo, whose production declined in 2009 after he hurt his knee early, looked like a different player this year in his third season. He is a three-down player to build around.

Storyline not to be overlooked: Spikes’ development. The 2010 second-round pick had been coming on before his NFL-issued four-game suspension. The late-season suspension set him back as he was relegated to backup duties in the playoff loss to the Jets.

Future: Mayo is signed through 2012. Guyton, who played 57 percent of the snaps, is signed through 2011. Spikes (2013) and Fletcher (2012) both have multiple years left.

Final thought: Like tight end on the offensive side, this position should return intact for 2011 and looks well stocked. Mayo and Spikes start in the 3-4 alignment, with Guyton and Fletcher contributing most in sub packages, as the Patriots go four-deep here. It would be a surprise to see an addition at this spot.

Your thoughts: How do you think the Patriots should approach the situation at inside linebacker? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog.