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Bill Belichick was scouting another player, but Elandon Roberts kept catching his eye

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts turned in an impressive performance in Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns, which has made many take notice.

As for the first time Bill Belichick noticed Roberts on the scouting trail at the University of Houston, it was the classic case of him studying someone else, only to have Roberts keep showing up with impressive plays.

“Personally, I first saw him when I was watching Keenan Reynolds, the Navy quarterback, and that [Navy-Houston] game Reynolds threw for 300 yards or something like that. He threw a lot of passes, it was the game in his career where he threw the most, so I wanted to watch that,” Belichick relayed Tuesday. “When I was watching that, I kept noticing the middle linebacker for Houston making a ton of plays in that game. I didn’t even know who he was, so I went and got the [scouting] information on him.”

Roberts had seven tackles in the game (four for a loss) to go along with 2.5 sacks.

As Belichick later looked deeper at Roberts’ college career, which began at Morgan State before he transferred to Houston, he saw good production (particularly as a senior) and a player who “runs well, probably plays to or a little bigger than his size [6-foot-0, 235], has some explosion, plays strong, is instinctive and can find the ball.”

The Patriots ultimately selected Roberts in the sixth round (214th overall) of the draft, with a private workout from linebackers coach Brian Flores another piece of the puzzle.

“When Coach Flores worked him out, he confirmed all those things, plus how hard working of a player he is,” Belichick said, also noting that receiver coach Chad O’Shea’s father, Mike, is the head athletic trainer at the University of Houston and he provided a solid reference on Roberts.

In the preseason, Roberts earned a roster spot with strong play and that carried over into the regular season with his work in Cleveland. One play that stood out Sunday came in the second quarter when he charged downhill and rocked veteran left tackle Joe Thomas to make a tackle in the running game.

“He has a very explosive mannerism about his playing style,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “He does a good job of reading the offense and being able to decipher what they’re doing really quick.”

But Belichick and Patricia, as they often do with rookies, also pointed out that Roberts is still a young player with a lot to learn.

What we learned Tuesday was a behind-the-scenes nugget of how Roberts first caught Belichick's attention, and how that initial glimpse set the groundwork for him to become a Patriot.