Elandon Roberts was the surprise name among the New England Patriots’ 2019 captains.
But his head coach wasn’t surprised that the 25-year-old linebacker had been included next to the likes of Tom Brady, James White, David Andrews, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater.
“His whole career, from Morgan State to Houston to here, he wasn’t a very highly recognized player when we drafted him,” Bill Belichick told reporters of Roberts during Friday’s press conference. “But he’s one of the most unselfish players that we have on our team. He’ll do whatever he can to help the team in any way. He’s also one of the toughest and most physical players on the team, as well.”
One could revisit the preseason finale from Roberts’ rookie year. The 2016 sixth-round draft choice, taken No. 214 overall after leading the nation in solo tackles, combined for nine against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Roberts did so despite going down clutching his left leg while covering a kickoff in the opening quarter. He’d stay in to finish with 34 snaps on defense, four on special teams and a distinguishable limp by the closing seconds of the final quarter.
One could also revisit the meeting with the Cleveland Browns that October, when Roberts knocked on perennial All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas’ door and halted running back Isaiah Crowell in the shadow of his own goal posts.
More moments like those have followed.
The former Morgan State Bear and Houston Cougar hasn’t left New England’s 53-man roster. Roberts has appeared in a total of 53 career games from September into February.
His scouting report continues to lengthen as the list of picks remaining from his draft class shortens.
“He’s really a tempo-setter, an impact hitter,” Belichick said. “But his intelligence and his awareness and how hard he studies the game of football is very important to him. That’s reflected in the way he approaches it and the way he plays it. He’s gained a lot of knowledge, a much greater understanding both individually for his position and then a much greater depth in terms of the overall – what the offense is trying to do, what the defense’s strengths and weaknesses of individual calls are and so forth. He’s grown tremendously in those areas, as well.”
Traditionally undersized by New England’s linebacker standards at 6-foot, 238 pounds, Roberts checked into all 16 games last regular season. He collected 11 starts, 65 tackles, one sack and four pass deflections.
“But just as a teammate, I’m sure the players voted for him because of his toughness, his unselfishness, his dependability,” added Belichick. “He really is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. You can’t ask for more than that.”