Just more than a week ago, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick admitted he “didn’t know” who standout rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts was when he first noticed the University of Houston defender. Roberts made plays all over the field in a Nov. 27, 2015 game Belichick originally attended to scout Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
In his Friday press conference, Belichick was asked if it’s difficult to evaluate players like Roberts, who had a breakout senior season with the Cougars after a relatively quiet collegiate career.
The coach dropped this gem:
“Really, that’s a tough one. You’re like, if this guy is so good, why did he not play? Why wasn’t he out there? It’s like, is that production circumstantial? Is that production real? Is this guy really on the way up, or was that the peak, and is it going to come back down?” Belichick said.
“I guess the one that sticks out the most for me would be Coach (Nick) Saban’s story about (former Steelers great Jack) Lambert. You know, how Lambert couldn’t get on the field (in college at Kent State). He was a backup linebacker and didn’t play. The kid in front of him (Bob Bender) was really their leader, he was kind of the heart and soul of the Kent State defense, Nick played quarterback on that team and through a series of circumstances, that’s another long story, but we’ll skip through all of that.
“Anyways, the kid dropped out of school, went to work for Mick Jagger, he was a security guy on tour with the (Rolling) Stones, and Lambert became the starting middle linebacker. He probably would have never played had that not happened, and you know, you have a Hall of Fame player.
“Sometimes things take a turn, and then once they get that opportunity and they get in there, the Tom Bradys of the world or whoever, you can’t get them out of there. Lou Gehrig, it’s just, you know. So is that one, or is the other one of, ‘OK, well that was the high water mark,’ and it never gets close to that point again?
“It’s really a tough question. Obviously, the more you have to go on, probably the better chance you have of making the right evaluation. The less you have to go on, the more, ‘Is this a one-year flash or is this the start of something that’s going to be at that level you saw for a short amount of time?’ There are certainly a lot of examples of both.”
Roberts and the Patriots linebacking corps will be key in limiting Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell on Sunday at Heinz Field.