When new coaching staffs arrive on NFL teams, head coaches always like to have one or two of “their guys” from a previous job brought in to help establish their program.
For the New York Giants and rookie head coach Joe Judge, veteran special teamer Nate Ebner fits that description. Let’s take a closer look at what Ebner brings to the Giants.
Position: Special teams/safety
Contract: One-year, $2 million | UFA: 2021
How he got here
You likely know Ebner’s story. A rugby player, he never played football until walking on as a junior at Ohio State. A brilliant special teams player, Ebner was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the New England Patriots. He spent eight seasons there before signing with the Giants.
Over those eight seasons, Ebner has played only a total of 139 snaps on defense. Over the past three seasons, he has played just one defensive snap. He has, in his career, played 2,395 special teams snaps.
Ebner, obviously, loves what he does.
“You don’t get four downs. You don’t have a bunch of opportunities. You get one chance. Sometimes, those opportunities can be game-changing opportunities. Every game, you’re going to get a handful of opportunities to change the game. Kicking and special teams plays truly do change the game. Touchdowns, blocked kicks, especially turnovers, momentum swings, they’re big parts of the game,” Ebner said in a March conference call. “Those details matter, and I think having played as long as I have, I hopefully can kind of build on what I’ve experienced.
“That’s why I love the kicking game. It’s a one-play series that’s balls to the wall for the entire time. It’s not like you get an incomplete pass and you’re back in the deep part of the field, and not covering grass and it’s a run play or something like that. Every single play in the kicking game is absolutely full speed and a dog fight. Every single one of them. It’s fun.”
Ebner will be expected to join Cody Core as centerpieces of the Giants’ special teams units. After having spent his entire career with Judge as one of his coaches, Ebner will also be expected to bring that understanding of the head coach and what he wants from players to the Giants locker room.
“I’m going to let Joe speak for himself on what his message and culture and all that stuff that he wants to do,” Ebner said when asked about carrying Judge’s message. “I can tell you this, whatever that will be, not only from Joe but the rest of that coaching staff, I’m going to do the best that I can to do it to the best of my ability. Like I said, the best that I can. Whatever capacity they need me in, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it the best I can.
“That, to me, is what I kind of watched in New England some great players do. That’s kind of a mindset that as a team, if we can all buy in together, then we’ll be in there playing for each other. That’s what great teams do, is play for each other. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s asked of me and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Ebner never got the recognition in New England of eight-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro special teamer Matthew Slater. Regardless, in New York he will likely play an important part as Judge tries to get his program off the ground amidst a difficult offseason.