Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Nate Ebner will deliver a special message for Joe Judge


Nate Ebner #43 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

Updated March 20, 2020 3:29 AM

Unless you’re a Patriots fan — and perhaps a diehard one, at that — chances are you haven’t heard of Nate Ebner.
Special teams players, even good ones, almost always fly under the radar. Especially special-teamers who are converted rugby players.
But the 31-year-old Ebner could very well become one of the Giants’ most important acquisitions in what is a most important offseason roster-building process.
It’s just a one-year contract for Ebner, but he’ll be an invaluable part of the Giants under first-year coach Joe Judge, who came to the Patriots the same year that  Ebner did and has coached the special teams ace every day of his pro career.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Ebner has never been a regular position player, but he has been an indispensable member of the Patriots’ special teams throughout his career. And if you know anything about Bill Belichick, you know that his early years as an NFL special teams coach created a lasting impression that has extended to his time as a future Hall of Fame coach in New England.
Judge now inherits the mantle as the Giants’ head coach and can use Ebner as an example of what he wants from his players. While other Patriots players have scattered elsewhere to other Belichick disciples this offseason — center Ted Karras and linebacker Kyle Van Noy to Brian Flores’ Dolphins; defensive tackle Danny Shelton, defensive back Duron Harmon and linebacker Jamie Collins to Matt Patricia’s Lions — Judge now gets Ebner.
It’s commonplace for head coaches and former assistants to bring in players familiar with their systems when they work elsewhere. Belichick brought Carl Banks and Pepper Johnson with him to Cleveland in his first head-coaching gig. Bill Parcells lured Curtis Martin away from the Patriots when he worked for the Jets. Mike Holmgren made Matt Hasselbeck his quarterback in Seattle after moving on from Green Bay.
Those players are valuable not only from an on-field perspective, but they help spread the coach’s message to the rest of the players. That’s one of the most important tools in creating roster cohesion, and Ebner now will perform that vital role with the Giants. At the same time, he’ll provide the kind of aggressive, intelligent play that made him one of the league’s best special-teamers in his time in New England.

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