Solder ready for tough task in Indy DEs

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Solder ready for tough task in Indy DEs

FOXBORO -- Nate Solder has been watching Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney since middle school, admiring Freeney's ability to blow past offensive linemen and sack quarterbacks. Now, ten years into Freeney's career, he's still one of the most feared defensive ends in football, and Solder may be charged with stopping him.

"There's so many guys I watched (growing up) and he's one of them," Solder said. "He's a guy that's been doing a lot of great things for a long time."

For Solder, there will be no time Sunday to admire Freeney the way he did as a teenager. According to Comcast SportsNet's Mike Giardi, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be out for the foreseeable future with a foot injury. It's likely Solder would be the one to replace him.

Whether the rookie first round draft pick faces off with Freeney or the Colts' other Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis, he knows he'll have his work cut out for him.

"They're real professionals," Solder said. "They have a litany of different moves. They play extremely hard. They're gifted athletes. All of the above."

The Patriots have faced a stable of elite pass-rushers this season, including the Chiefs' Tamba Hali, the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware and the Dolphins' Cameron Wake. Playing against them and studying their moves this season has given Solder a crash course in protecting the quarterback.

Against the best of the best, Solder said good footwork is paramount.

"I think technique is the most important thing, especially against the best ones," Solder said. "You have to be at a high level of technique at all times."

Solder's veteran teammates have helped teach him the other aspects of the game to prepare him for games like Sunday's.

"All the O-line has been helping me a ton," he said. "The preparation, in-game mentality. All those sort of things are things I've learned from them."

The rookie first round draft pick has shared time with Vollmer at tackle this season, but lately he's been used in other spots, playing as a blocking tight end as well as a fullback. Those spots weren't totally foreign to him as he spent time at the University of Colorado as a tight end, at times motioning in the backfield or lead-blocking for a running back.

"A lot of it carries over and that's kind of what I did in college too," Solder said. "A lot of it is muscle memory, and I remember it. But yeah it's not the same, obviously. I'd say I'm more comfortable on the line."

Blocking Freeney or Mathis should be anything but comfortable. Solder, if called upon, will likely have help from tight ends and running backs, but even so, he knows Indy's D-ends pose a challenge.

Will there be a middle school offensive lineman somewhere watching on TV, admiring Solder for how he snuffs out the Colts' studs? Maybe. Maybe not. But if Solder can keep Tom Brady upright -- for the most part -- and the Colts stay winless, the Patriots would take it.

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."