The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at safety and special teams ace Nate Ebner.
Name: Nate Ebner
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 43
Size: 6'0, 220 lbs.
2015 review: As has been the case his entire career, Nate Ebner saw the vast majority of his snaps on special teams in 2015. In fact, he led the team in special teams snaps played with 421. He appeared on all four units and saw his responsibilities range from personal punt protector to jammer and even – although unsuccessfully – kicker.
Overall, Ebner was active for all but one game last year and finished third on the Patriots’ list of special teams tackles with 12. Once again, he was a standout and one of the best special teamers in the league – despite the unit struggling with consistency in the second half of the season.
Ebner’s defensive contributions, on the other hand, were limited to a mere 45 defensive snaps as he was primarily used as a safety/linebacker-hybrid in goal line packages. He did break up the lone pass thrown in his direction, so he’s got that going for him.
2016 preview: After the 2015 season ended, Nate Ebner became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The Patriots did not let him leave, though, and re-signed the 27-year old via a two-year deal worth $2.4 million. Not only his new contract makes Ebner a lock to make the roster – his role as a leader both on and off the field does too.
Despite missing OTAs, minicamp and possibly parts of training camp because of his attempt to enter this year’s Olympics as a member of the United States’ rugby team, Ebner will be a core special teamer yet again. And just like last year, he is projected to play 70+% of New England’s special teams snap.
On defense, Ebner will likely be used as he has been in 2015: as a substitute in goal line and short yardage situations. Given his status and importance as a four-unit special teamer, this limited usage should not be considered a surprise.
Nate Ebner is one of the best special teams players in the NFL. As such, he will once again be a key member of New England’s four special teams units and hopefully help them rebound after an up-and-down 2015 season.