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.

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.