New England Patriots Camp Battles: Jamie Collins vs Elandon Roberts

Jamie Collins

The New England Patriots boast an enviable amount of depth at the linebacker position. As of this posting, the Patriots have three great starters in Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Ja’Whaun Bentley complemented by Elandon Roberts and the newly-signed Jamie Collins. However, the bad part of depth is that the Patriots will need to move on from at least one good player.

New England probably won’t carry more than five linebackers and, with special teams stud Brandon King signed for two more years, somebody will have to be the odd man out. Hightower, Van Noy, and Bentley are roster locks, which means that Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts are battling for one spot.

Jamie Collins vs Elandon Roberts: New England Patriots Training Camp Battles

What Jamie Collins Brings

Jamie Collins obviously has the higher pedigree, as the former Second-Team All-Pro was one of New England’s best defenders in 2014 and 2015. The former second-round pick was notorious for his freak athleticism and explosive plays. Collins was at his best when lined up in the middle of the field, as he provided strong play against the run and was one of the most dangerous blitzers in football. While he hasn’t looked like his old self in recent years, he still managed to play over 90% of Cleveland’s snaps last season and record 104 combined tackles.

That said, he still has some shortcomings as a player. Collins struggles when aligned outside, which might have something to do with his recent drop in play. According to Pro Football Focus, Collins only spent 11.4% of his snaps on the edge with New England. With the Browns, however, Collins played on the edge on 31.4% of snaps.

Collins is better suited for the inside, but he particularly struggles when aligned out wide. This dates back to his time in New England, as Collins routinely struggled to cover running backs or tight ends along the sideline.

Collins signed a one-year, $5 million contract with just $250,000 in guaranteed money. This is essentially nothing for a player of his caliber, and the Patriots don’t have a financial obligation to keep him on the team. If he doesn’t pan out in training camp, New England can move on with essentially no negative repercussions.

What Roberts Brings

Elandon Roberts is similar to Collins in that he’s at his best when he’s playing in the middle of the field. Unlike Collins, Roberts is a run-first defender who doesn’t do as much against the pass. However, he doesn’t miss many tackles and he’s steadily improved at hitting the right hole and getting his man. Essentially, he’s developed into Brandon Spikes.

Collins can handle a full-sized role in an defense, but Roberts is best when asked to be a complementary piece of the defense. The former sixth-round pick simply doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to match up against running backs and tight ends in the passing game. When lined up wide, opposing offenses know they can exploit him. Unlike Collins, Roberts doesn’t offer anything as a pass-rusher and is basically a two-down player.

Financially, Elandon Roberts won’t count much against the salary cap. Roberts is still on his rookie contract, which means that he carries a $2.05 million cap hit for the 2019 season. While that’s a reasonable price for a player of his services, the Patriots could save money by moving on from Roberts. According to Spotrac, Roberts only carries a $25,089 dead cap hit if released. This represents significant cap space which New England could roll over into the 2020 season.

Last Word on Jamie Collins vs Elandon Roberts

Collins and Roberts are similar in that they’re both at their best when lining up in the middle of the defense. Both players struggle to defend the sideline and neither is capable of consistently winning their matchups on the edge.

However, right now Collins looks like the superior player. The Cleveland Browns misused Collins during his 30-game exodus, causing his overall production to go down. While nobody’s suggesting Collins can replicate his 2015 play, he should look better in New England than he did in Cleveland. Collins is a strong defender against the run and the pass and provides big-play potential as a blitzer.

Roberts, meanwhile, is strictly a north-south run defender. While he is good at what he’s asked to do, one-dimensional players like that are starting to get phased out of the league. The NFL is getting more and more pass-happy, and Collins provides more value than Roberts. When factoring in the potential cap savings for Roberts, it’s an easy decision.

This battle will go last throughout the entirety of training camp, but it’s hard to imagine Collins not emerging victorious. Barring an injury to anyone on the depth chart, Roberts looks like the odd-man out at this point in the season.

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