Northwest Missouri State Product Sam Roberts Making Preseason Push With New England Patriots

The New England Patriots stepped into Division II when the 2022 NFL draft reached the sixth round. Glimpses as to why were seen against the New York Giants in the preseason opener.

While playing 58 defensive snaps to lead all down linemen, Sam Roberts proved hard to hide.

The Northwest Missouri State product had a hand in six tackles last Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. He also had a hand in setting up a holding call on third down against New York guard Josh Ezeudu, and in kickstarting New England’s lone sack from linebacker Josh Uche.

Pro Football Focus credited Roberts with a team-high five quarterback hurries in the 23-21 loss.

“Sam, like a lot of our rookies — I think you could really say just about all of them — he’s flashed,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during his press conference on Monday. “He’s certainly had some good moments, good plays. It’s a big jump for him. The level of competition, scheme, everything else.”

More jumps will be needed from pick No. 200 overall before rosters around the league reduce to 53 players. Next on the schedule are joint practices and exhibitions with the Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders.

And tough calls on a defensive line led by sophomore Christian Barmore, franchise All-Decade member Lawrence Guy and recent two-year, $20.8 million re-up Davon Godchaux. The likes of restructured veteran Henry Anderson and rookie LaBryan Ray — a former Alabama five-star recruit who could extend New England’s undrafted streak to 19 regular seasons — are also in the competition.

But midway through August, Roberts’ odds of bull-rushing his way to Week 1 appear not so long. The odds of him passing through waivers and onto the practice squad are what appear longer.

“He was one of the best at where he played, and that’s flipped now,” added Belichick. “But he’s a talented guy. He works very hard. He’s improved a lot. He’s got a lot of room to grow. But his fundamentals and his recognition and obviously experience in the league, those all are — he has a long way to go in that. But he’s better every time he steps onto the field.”

Roberts won the Cliff Harris Award, honoring the nation’s top small-school defensive player, as a redshirt senior. The 24-year-old was also named the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team AP All-American. There were 18 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks amassed across 13 games last fall, after no games were played by the Bearcats in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Invitations to the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Game followed a tenure that included 184 tackles, 18.5 sacks, a pair of forced fumbles, an interception as well as five blocked kicks on special teams.

Roberts made 38 starts through 50 contests before becoming the seventh NFL draft selection in Northwest Missouri State history. Defensive back Brandon Dixon, a New York Jets sixth-rounder in 2014, marked the program’s previous.

“He’s been healthy. He’s been on the field,” said Belichick. “He’s gotten a lot of reps, which is how you improve. So I like working with him, but we’ll see how it goes. He’s got a ways to go, but he’s making a lot of progress.”