The New England Patriots live by their famous “Do Your Job”-mantra, and few players exemplify it better than Elandon Roberts. The fourth-year man who was voted a team captain before the start of the season is not only seeing regular action in his usual role as a run-stuffing inside linebacker, but also has carved out a role on special teams and even as the team’s primary fullback in lieu of the injured James Develin and Jakob Johnson.
Roberts has certainly performed well in all three phases of the game so far this season, especially because of how he approaches each of the positions he plays — at least according to the man himself. The former sixth-round draft pick prides himself on being a physical player, after all, something he pointed out when speaking to reporters in the locker room after the Patriots’ division-clinching victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
“On every play, I just be like: whoever steps in my way, I’m going to run through their f---ing face. Period,” Roberts said. “I’m looking to make the tackle and if I can’t make the tackle and you’re in my way, I’m going to run through your motherf---ing face. Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps up in the hole, I’m going to run through their motherf---ing face. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a motherf---ers’ face.”
Roberts has had his opportunities to run through people’s faces, as he would call it, this season despite only playing a rotational role on defense (he is essentially the Patriots’ fourth option at the off-the-ball linebacker position behind Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley). After all, New England has given him 50 snaps on offense with a career-high 21 of them coming during the aforementioned win over Buffalo.
While not always perfect in his execution — something that has to be expected out of a first-time fullback — Roberts did regularly make his presence felt due to the physical style of his play. And being physical is more than just making big hits for him, as he pointed out: “It’s a mentality. When you play teams week-in and week-out, teams know who you are, teams know what you’re about. Just like when we study teams, we know who they are, know what they’re about.”
“Late in the season, it turns into a mentality,” Roberts continued before talking about his own mentality: “I run through a motherf---ers’ face. Offense, defense, special teams, whatever you want. I think that’s why Bill [Belichick] likes me. Because sometimes, I hit people, and he doesn’t tell me anything, but he just gives me a little grin. And then I walk by him, and he doesn’t say anything. I think I’m the only person in practice he won’t say s--t to.”
Belichick himself has praised Roberts’ contributions numerous times in the past, and the game against Buffalo — when he helped New England gain 145 yards on the ground — was no exception: “He started off with a couple plays and built that up a little bit. He’s done a good job with the opportunity he’s had in there. So, we’ve been able to expand it a little bit. He’s done a solid job for us. He’s another tough, physical player that’s good to have on the field.”
“You’re playing for the guy next to you,” said Roberts when asked about playing on the offensive side of the ball after seeing no snaps there through his first three years in the NFL. “Every week, that O-line grinds. Every week, Sony [Michel] grinds, Rex [Burkhead] grinds, James [White] grinds. And when it’s time to run the ball, I know the work they put in when I’m on the opposite side on defense, so I don’t want to disappoint them when I come in.”
Roberts has most definitely not disappointed so far this season, which turned him into a valuable contributor especially on the offensive side of the ball — one that is leading by example whether it comes to his versatility and willingness to wear numerous hats, or the physicality he brings to the table. From doing his job to running through opponents, Roberts has turned into a prime example for the so-called Patriot Way this season.