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 continue the series with rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Name: Elandon Roberts
Jersey number: 52
Size: 6'0, 235 lbs.
2015 review: Roberts improved every collegiate season after transferring from Morgan State to the University of Houston. His 2015 senior year was his best and earned him a spot on the Patriots’ draft board despite him being an undersized linebacker at 6'0, 235 lbs.
Overall, Roberts, who was voted team captain, appeared in 14 games for the Cougars in 2015. He finished the season with a nation-high 88 solo tackles as well as 54 assisting tackles; 19 of his tackles were for loss. Furthermore, Roberts added 6.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception to his defensive stat line.
Given his production, leadership and the fact that he played both defense and special teams at Houston, it is no surprise that New England opted to take Roberts in the sixth round (pick 214) of this year’s draft.
2016 preview: Given his stature and the Patriots’ depth at linebacker, Roberts is projected to start his professional career on special teams and work his way into the defensive rotation from there on. However, in order to do all that, he still needs to beat out fellow linebackers Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber, Kevin Snyder and Kamu Grugier-Hill over the course of the summer.
If he is able to do that, Roberts will likely be used as a core special teamer and a sub linebacker to take advantage of his lateral speed and knack for the ball. He is not projected to see much playing time on defense, though, as New England has two of the best linebackers in football, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, who rarely leave the field.
However, there is no guarantee that Roberts will be able to beat out the backup linebackers mentioned above. If he is unable to earn a roster spot, then he might find a place on the Patriots’ practice squad – at least if he shows enough in training camp and the preseason to convince the team to keep him on its payroll (and, naturally, goes unclaimed on the waiver wire).
Elandon Roberts is a talented albeit undersized athlete. However, given the competition he faces at linebacker and on special teams, the 22-year old needs to have a good summer to survive the numbers game and earn a spot on either the roster or the Patriots’ practice squad. It remains to be seen whether he can actually do that but a foundation to build upon definitely exists.