FOXBORO - There's no reason to sugarcoat it. Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder played badly last week against the Saints and - after 10 days off and a rigorous week of practice - the second year tackles came out and played badly again against the Eagles.
Doesn't matter who else was out there next to them, across from them or behind them. Doesn't matter that it was just the second preseason game. After the Saints game, their lack of discipline and fundamental soundness was a flashpoint. They simply needed to play better and show improvement to quell the angst.
They did not.
The offensive line as a whole wasn't good - 2.1 yards on 29 carries; 15 for 37 passing with two sacks allowed and another wiped out by penalty - but the return of Brian Waters and Logan Mankins should settle three-fifths of the line. The other two-fifths - the tackle spots - were probably the biggest problem and Cannon and Solder were expected to be competent there. They haven't been.
On the second snap of the game, Cannon got called for a hold. On a screen in the first quarter, Solder got beat by Trent Cole which caused a screen pass to get messed up. Cannon allowed a strip sack. Solder got steamrolled by Cole later in the first. Solder allowed a sack by Cole that got wiped out by penalty.
"The Eagles are a good team so we're concerned about everything," said Belichick when asked about 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."
Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham was asked about his matchups with both players.
"I was getting up and under him a lot and that is probably the best thing," Graham said of Solder. "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."
Cole was on his game in terms of bringing pressure.
Asked about Cannon, Graham said, "I feel like we should have gone at him a little more."
Solder, the 17th overall pick last year, was unfailingly polite (as he always is) when asked if he was concerned about the protection breakdowns.
"That's our job," he said. "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."
The look on Solder's face seemed to signal that he's as uncomfortable with how things have looked as anyone watching is. Probably more.
The phrases "try to get better", "look to improve" and "continue to work" are his verbal crutches. But he must feel in real time and he'll certainly see on tape that he's too often tentative and playing well below his physical capabilities.
His affable predecessor Matt Light brought an air of nasty to the position that helped him. Solder's going to need to tap that because he's a beacon of insecurity on Tom Brady's blindside right now and defensive ends and outside linebackers will prey on that when they see the film.
The conversation was loud after the first preseason game. After this one - regardless of how long the Eagles played their starters and the fact the Patriots barely played theirs - the noise will grow louder still.
"My focus is getting better and it's gonna be within these walls that we're gonna focus and get better," Solder declared.
There's reason to believe he will. Maybe both he and Cannon will. But time is running out.