Can Solder fill into the Crumpler role?

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Can Solder fill into the Crumpler role?

By Rich Levine
Standing Room Only

The most interesting question surrounding the Pats offensive line isnt really about the offensive line.

After all, the five guys protecting Brady are who they are: Logan Mankins is one of the best in the league. Sebastian Vollmer isnt far behind. Dan Koppens seen better days, but hes still reliable with a set of hands that Brady trusts (and yes, I felt as uncomfortable writing that last part as you felt reading it).

Is Brian Waters past his prime? Sure, but at 34, hes also made the Pro Bowl in two of the last three seasons, and in the one season he didnt (2009), he was named NFL Man of the Year. Plus, if you care about this sort of thing, Waters was No. 67 on the NFL Networks countdown of the best 100 players from last season. By comparison, Jerod Mayo was No. 62. (Mankins was No. 39, Wes Welker was No. 50, Darius Butler was No. 5,007.) I have no idea why an offensive lineman is wearing No. 54 for the Patriots. I have no idea why anyone is wearing No. 54 for the Patriots. But Im fairly optimistic about what Waters can do.

On Bradys blindside, for the eleventh straight (and probably final) season, is Matt Light a guy whos . . . well, Matt Light. At this point, you know what he brings to table and you fear what he lacks, but for any insecurities that have grown over these last few years, give him this: Bradys only truly been injured once during Lights decade-plus on the job, and that (aka Bernard Pollard) had nothing to do with Light. All things considered, hes kept Brady safe, and I think he can do it for one more year. More importantly, so does Belichick.

So there you have it. Now back to that interesting question from the top of the page, the one that doesnt necessarily have to do with the offensive line (but obviously still does or I wouldnt be writing about it):

How will the Pats be affected by the loss of Alge Crumpler?

Despite making only six catches, Big Alge (in this case, pronounced Alj) was an unsung hero in last seasons resurgence. Hes one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. So who will fill in?

We have to assume that the newly acquired Gronk (Dan) will assume some of that responsibility. But and I know Im not the first one to suggest this Id love to see the Pats mess around with Nate Solder in the Crumpler role.

On one hand, hes the left tackle of the future, so maybe messing around is a little careless. But on the other, couldnt you totally see Belichick trying to pull this off? First of all, Solders a converted tight end, so you know the fundamentals are there. Second, hes an absolute freak of an athlete. Nate was a three-sport athlete in high school, so you get some idea of his athletic ability there, Belichick said of Solder after the draft. And 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. Hes pretty light on his feet, and I think you see that all the way through.

Third, its not like the Pats will suffer from Solders inability to get downfield of Crumplers six catches last season, only two were for more than four yards.

Incorporating Solder into that role would not only provide the Pats with the perhaps the most devastating offense line in the game, it will also give the rookie Solder consistent reps (instead of merely in the scattered fill-in role), get him accustomed to the NFL schemes and adjusted to the real NFL game. That way, hes better prepared to take over next season and insure that the twilight of Tom Bradys career is spent racking up stats (and, of course, rings) and not pulling turf out of his nostrils.

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”