By: Ian Logue
Another day one draft, another round of collective groans.
It’s business as usual for Bill Belichick and the Patriots on draft day.
While last year the plan in round one was to select a guy in Devin McCourty to bring some stability to their secondary, this year it’s pretty clear that Thursday night’s selection of offensive tackle Nate Solder was Belichick’s first step in trying to fix what’s gone wrong during the postseason in recent years.
While some will argue that one of the biggest problems in recent years continues to be their pass rush, a bigger problem has actually been the fact that during the last two playoff games we’ve seen, teams have had their own defensive success putting pressure on Tom Brady.
Needless to say heading into Thursday night’s first round, on the Patriots draft board was apparently someone they thought would address that problem, and by the end of the night Solder became the newest member of the Patriots.
According to Solder, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia made the trip out to Colorado on Monday to meet with him, and the Patriots had some additional familiarity with him due to Moses Cabrera, who New England hired back in March as their strength and conditioning coach. Cabrera held the same position out in Colorado and had worked with Solder, and one of the biggest things talked about so far is his work ethic. As we know, that’s one of the biggest things that Bill Belichick looks for, and according to Belichick they had been looking at him for a while last night before making the decision to take him.
Nate Solder is the newest member of the New England Patriots. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
“Nate [Solder] was a player that we’ve been on for a long time,” said Belichick last night after taking him with the #17 overall pick. “Of course we hired Moses [Cabrera] who was at Colorado last year, so he certainly gave us a little insight into him.
“Nate has been a solid player for Colorado, [a] left tackle and certainly there are a lot of things that he’ll need to do to improve, but I feel like he’s a good, talented guy, a hard-working kid, and if he can keep doing that, then I think he’ll be able to contribute for us and we’ll work him at left tackle.”
Matt Light is currently a free agent, and it’s unclear whether or not they’ll re-sign him before this season. He’s been protecting Brady’s blindside for the duration of Brady’s career, but one of the biggest areas they’ve struggled with is dealing with “speed rushers”, who have given him fits in recent years. Solder’s 6’8″ 319 lbs, and was the 2nd best tackle on most draft boards. However, one big thing scouts have touted about him is his quickness. He’s a former tight end and is extremely athletic, and was the AP Big 12 Player of the year for 2010.
Belichick said the transition wasn’t all that uncommon. Solder has certainly made the most of it, and was one of 10 unanimous first-team picks for the Big 12.
“I think you can definitely see Nate’s athleticism. I don’t think that’s that unusual,” said Belichick. “I think there are a lot of tackles – not a lot, but there are certainly a number of tackles who started off at tight end and kind of grew into the position.”
“Certainly when you watch him play, you watch him pull, you watch him run, you watch his athleticism, for a big guy, he moves well. He’s pretty light on his feet, and I think you see that all the way through.”
His resume backs it up. During three seasons in Colorado, he allowed just five sacks and 21 pressures in 1,400 career passing plays. When the biggest part of your franchise is the guy delivering the football, it’s important to make an investment in keeping him upright. With the uncertainty with Light, coupled in with Logan Mankins’ contentious contract situation, and the retirement of Stephen Neal, three out of the five guys who have been responsible for keeping him safe are already potentially out of the picture.
When asked in an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub last night what he thought about potentially battling for a spot to start, Solder said that the competition should bring out the best in everyone.
“I think it’s going to be a competition, and that process will make us all better,” said Solder on ‘The DA Show’ Thursday night.
The Patriots traded out of the 28th slot, sending the pick to New Orleans for a first round pick next year and an additional pick during this year’s second round. What they do now remains to be seen, and it’s possible we could see them make another move today. They’ve got the #33 overall pick, which Belichick said they’ve already heard from a couple of teams in that selection. They’ll also pick at #56 and #60 in that round, so fans will have to wait and see what need they’ll address next.
For now they came away with a hard working guy who is a leader and a former team captain, which is the type of guy who fits the Patriots mentality. Solder was giddy throughout each interview Thursday night, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity of joining Brady and the rest of his teammates here in Foxboro.
Said Solder, “You know, I think Tom Brady is a great quarterback and I think all my teammates are great players and I’m looking forward to the privilege of playing for the Patriots.”