FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Patriots took safety Nate Ebner in the sixth round of this year's draft, it struck many on the outside as an investment in a player who would deliver more returns on special teams than defense.
After all, Ebner played just three snaps on defense last year at Ohio State and made his strongest contributions in the kicking game.
But he's shown up all over the practice field in recent days, and on Monday he polished off a solid week with an interception in the Patriots' loss to the Eagles.
Ebner says the regularity with which he seems to be finding the football is a byproduct of hard work in practice.
"I would say I'm starting to get a feel for things, but you know it [starts] with practice and just getting better and just trying to get better every day, every week, so that's really my focus now."
When asked about his interception, Ebner took a business-like approach, saying, "The ball came out and I just tried to make a play. That's what I'm here to do, so it came to me and I did it and that's that."
While saying there is still room for improvement and growth, coach Bill Belichick praised Ebner's worth ethic and ability to find the football.
"Nate’s shown up around the ball and that’s good," Belichick said. "There are certainly a lot of things he needs to work on. He has good plays, he makes mistakes and learns from them. He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but he works hard, he’s smart, he’s getting better. So we’ll see how it goes here, how much we can build on tonight and the previous practices and we’ll see how much he improves going forward."
With Patrick Chung leaving the game with what the team announced as a shoulder injury in the first quarter on Monday night, it's possible that Ebner will see extensive action as the Patriots take the field again on Friday night against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.