NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Nate Ebner has been a man of mystery since the moment he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Many fans and draft analysts alike were scrambling for information on the former Ohio State Buckeye, and with Ebner missing the first few days of training camp, not a lot of questions were answered.
With Ebner back on the field, is his play worthy of cracking the Patriots final roster?
Ebner started making an impact almost immediately after stepping on the field. He was running with the first unit on multiple special teams, a good sign for a rookie trying to make the team. If Scott O’Brien, the Patriots specials team coach, stands up for Ebner in a personnel meeting, he’ll be that much more tough to cut.
After a few injuries thinned out the depth at the safety position – James Ihedigbo and rookie Tavon Wilson both missed time today – Ebner also saw some time with the first team defense. According to Greg Bedard, Ebner was “in the mix for the backup safety spot” and also took some reps at the “money” position. Similar to how the “star” defensive back takes over for the “Sam” linebacker in nickel, the “money” defensive back takes over for the “Mike” linebacker in dime.
Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio had this to say about how the sixth round selection has looked so far.
“Ebner didn’t really have a lot of experience just defensively at Ohio State but he’s a smart kid, and understood what they were doing real well defensively. I think he’s learning. I think it’s a process for him,” Caserio relayed. “But he has good size [6-0, 210], he’s smart, and he can run.” (ESPN Boston)
With veteran Patrick Chung, free agent acquisition Steve Gregory and second round pick Tavon Wilson almost assured roster spots, Ebner is probably fighting for one or possibly two depth/special teams spots at safety.
James Ihedigbo, Josh Barrett and Ebner would be the main three battling for those spots. While Ihedigbo might have the inside track due to his experience last year and special teams prowess, his upside is awfully limited playing safety. Barrett didn’t play well before his injury last year either.
If all things are equal on the special teams front, I see Belichick continuing the youth movement on defense and keeping Nate Ebner around on the roster – they obviously liked him enough to spend a sixth round pick on him, let’s see what he can do.
You can see my entire roster prediction here.