The Patriots have a rich history of using defensive players on offense, and offensive players on defense. On Monday night, linebacker Elandon Roberts became the latest Patriots two-way player.
With two fullbacks lost to season-ending injuries, Roberts lined up at the position on several occasions during Monday night’s 33-0 win over the Jets.
“[W]e’ve practiced against Elandon for a number of years,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on Tuesday. “James Develin and he have had some legendary battles in nine-on-seven in training camp and those kind of things. [Roberts] is obviously one of the toughest guys we’ve got. He’s kind of built low to the ground. He’s kind of got that natural leverage that you need, either as a guy that takes on blocks or a guy that makes blocks.”
So how did Roberts do with his double duty?
“I thought he went in there and did a decent job,” McDaniels said. “It’s always exciting to have one of those guys go in our huddle and operate and fit in well. Elandon’s a great teammate, very unselfish. That’s why he’s a captain and plays his role to the best of his ability every week. It was good to have him in there.”
The Patriots typically have no hesitation to use guys out of position.
“We’ve obviously done this before,” McDaniels said. “We’ve had some experience with defensive players playing somewhat of a role on offense, whether it be tight end, fullback, etc., going back to [Mike] Vrabel and [Richard] Seymour and [Junior] Seau and Dan Klecko and guys like that. So we just worked him in there in some of those roles. Multiple guys are ready to go in some of those things.”
That’s the Patriot Way, where doing your job includes being ready to do someone else’s job on short notice, too. For coaches, doing their job includes getting players ready to play out of position.
“In terms of coaching those kind of players, you’ve just got to find a few minutes here and there, a few windows during the course of the week, in the day, to share a guy here or there if they need him on the opposite side of the ball,” McDaniels said. “You’ve obviously seen us play with Troy Brown on defense or Julian [Edelman] at nickelback. Those kind of things have happened in the past, too. So, there’s a sharing that goes on during the course of the meetings and then practice and just trying to do the things you need to do to make sure that the player is prepared to do the role that you’re asking him to do on game day.”
The Patriots do it as well as anyone, which give them a way to get the most out of a 53-man roster.