Pats Looking for Left Tackle to Step Up

Former first-rounder Nate Solder looks to improve

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Left tackle Matt Light's last NFL game came against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. He retired in the offseason and the Patriots were set to move forward with 2011 first-round pick Nate Solder as the man responsible for protecting Tom Brady's blindside. Except that through two preseason games Solder has looked, well, bad.

    No one thought much of his performance against the Saints 12 days ago because it came after just two weeks of training camp and everyone's rusty this time of year. But there had to be some raised eyebrows after his second consecutive uneven showing, this time against the Eagles on Monday night.

    "The Eagles are a good team so we're concerned about everything," Belichick said (via CSNNE.com's Tom Curran) regarding the protection issues. "Just go out there and play. We had over 50 plays in the first half and we had a lot of snaps so we got a chance to evaluate a lot of things against the Eagles."

    There are still two preseason games to go and the Pats have a busy week before facing the Buccaneers Friday night. Presumably, improving the pass protection will be on the to-do list in the coming days. It's also worth noting that while Solder and backup Marcus Cannon saw plenty of action, New England decided to sit every big-name player other than Deion Branch. This is noteworthy because a Tom Brady-less Pats team is a completely different animal. Brady affects everything -- from the coverage on the back end to blitzing schemes. And that can have a huge impact on the success or failure of the five big guys tasked with protecting him.

    Still, Solder knows he has to get better.

    "That's our job," he said via Curran. "I'm going to continue to improve my game. That's my focus. I don't know the specifics (of what he needs to work on). It will be what (offensive line coach Dante) Scarnecchia's telling me and all the coaches are telling me. I haven't been around long enough to know but I'll continue to work and do the best I can."

    And he's certainly capable. Solder, taken 17th overall 16 months ago, played well last season starting 13 games at right tackle. But its the left tackle that typically faces the the defense's best pass rusher and that's given Solder problems. Eagles' linebacker Brandon Graham was asked about his matchup with Solder after Monday's game.

    "I was getting up and under him a lot and that is probably the best thing," he said. "The challenges are that he is a big, long guy and you have to get his hands off of you. He is real strong and you have to stay on your game when you're playing him."


    Translation: Solder's issue isn't lack of physical ability he just needs to tidy up his technique. Scarnecchia is one of the best line coaches in the business and we're guessing that he'll have this sorted out before the Patriots face the Titans in the regular-season opener on September 9.