FOXBOROUGH, Mass — Bill Belichick has flipped linebacker Elandon Roberts‘ job description on its head. In years past, he’s been called on to stop the run for the Patriots, but is now being asked to do the exact opposite.
In the wake of season-ending injuries to veteran starter James Develin and rookie backup Jakob Johnson, New England has trotted out Roberts at fullback. He started and, as this latest AFC East-clinching win over the Bills would suggest, Roberts is starting to take fondly to the new role.
He was a pillar in New England being able to rush for 143 yards in this 24-17 win over Buffalo on Saturday as the 25 year old was barreling a path for Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead throughout the evening. This is the fourth time in the past five weeks that the Patriots have been able to get over the century mark on the ground and Roberts’ success has been a big reason why. Even in the one game they didn’t get a hundred yards rushing, they totaled 94 yards against Kansas City to go along with a touchdown.
“You know, he started off with a couple plays and built that up a little bit,” Belichick said of Roberts’ development. “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 a big help,” added James White. “He’s a physical guy and he did a great job blocking for us. He gets amped-up about it and he pried open holes for Sony and Rex.”
Getting “amped-up” for his new-found role may be an understatement.
“To be honest, on every play, I just be like, whoever steps in my way, Imma run through their [expletive] face. Period. Just like linebacker, ” Roberts noted in the Patriots locker room after the game. “I’m looking to make the tackle and if I can’t make the tackle and you’re in my way, Imma run though your [expletive] face.
“Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps up in the hole, Imma run through their [expletive] face. Period. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a [expletive]’s face.”
While Roberts may have a rather colorful way relaying his new job, he’s passing each challenge fabulously. His success isn’t only helping the run game, however, as this consistent threat to eat up yards has now made opposing defenses play a bit more honest, making them susceptible to play-action.
Evidence of that came with just under two minutes to play in the first quarter of Saturday’s win. New England was lined up in the I-formation with Roberts at fullback. Tom Brady ran a play-action that resulted in a touchdown pass to tight end Matt LaCosse.
“They did a good job and I think that running the ball well is what really sells the run,” Tom Brady said postgame. “You know, if you’re gaining yards when you hand it off, they’ve got to play more downhill. I think if they’re just sitting back because they’re not really believing that you’re going to run it and you can’t get through the d-line, then it doesn’t end up being too much. So, the fact that we were running it good was really important.”
The Patriots offense has been a bit of a curious puzzle to try and figure out all season. But, with just one game left in the regular season, Roberts may be starting to help unlock what could be a determining factor in whether or not they’ll be able to reach the Super Bowl once again.