Will Nate Ebner Make the Patriots Roster?

Nate Ebner Patriots Safety

Nate Ebner has a chance to make a big impact as a rookie for the Patriots. (Photo: Patriots.com)

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.

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3 Responses to “Will Nate Ebner Make the Patriots Roster?”

  1. Kyle says:

    I realize Will Allen is more of a CB, however at this point in his career and considering the depth this team has at CB (although the talent is certainly questionable as a whole), I see him as more of a safety. I would keep him on as a hybrid safety/corner over Ihedigbo (special teams player), Barrett (injury prone) and Ebner (inexperienced).

    Let Nate Ebner develop on the practice squad for a year and see how he has progressed. Special teams is not as important as it used to be due to the modern kickoff rules, which pushes me further in favor of retaining Will Allen.

    • td says:

      Kickoffs are only half the equation and more kickoffs were returned later in the year as the weather worsened. The difference in kickoff returns between us and the Jets was huge in starting field position.

      Special teams, most notably punts were a large reason the Giants kept our offense bottled up deep in our own end for most of the first half.

      • Kyle says:

        As much as anything, the offense was always bottled up near its own endzone because the defense could not force a 4th down without giving up a few first downs first, leaving teams like the Giants to punt from midfield and pin the offense back.

        There is minimal reason to retain special teams caliber players that cannot play at a high level in either the defense or offense presuming you have guys capable of playing defense or offense. Sergio Brown is a decent special teamer, but a TERRIBLE safety. Same for Slater as a WR. I would rather see the Patriots retain guys capable of playing at a reasonably high level on offense or defense, and then focus on the lesser aspects of the game kick coverage. It is still very much a part of the game, don’t get me wrong. However, the value of special teams “aces” has greatly diminished recently.

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