Can Solder fill into the Crumpler role?


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.

Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats


Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats

FOXBORO -- When Dion Lewis wasn't spotted at Wednesday's practice, we had to make it clear when we mentioned his absence: He had only, as far as we knew, missed the start of practice. Though unlikely, there's always the chance a player emerges from the locker room once practice has started and goes through the remaining periods of the workout. 

Now that we have the injury report for Wednesday, we know that wasn't the case for Lewis. He did not show up on the report as a limited participant, meaning he didn't participate at all. 

There were no surprises on Wednesday's injury report, with nine players listed as limited, including tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (hip) and receiver Julian Edelman (foot).

For the Bills, running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) did not participate. Bills coach Rex Ryan explained on Wednesday that McCoy aggravated his hamstring injury against the Dolphins on Sunday, but he did not rule him out for the Patriots game this coming weekend.

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury related)
LB Zach Brown (illness)
DT Corbin Bryan (shoulder)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
TE Cordy Glenn (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring)
LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
DT Adolphus Washington (illness)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring)
RB Mike Gillislee (foot)
T Seantreal Henderson (back)
LB Jerry Hughes (hand)
G John Miller (shoulder)
WR Robert Woods (foot)

Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?


Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?

FOXBORO -- As far as Tom Brady is concerned, there were no silver linings to Deflategate or the month he spent in exile from his team. Don’t try to put whipped cream on that particular mound of fecal material.
Found that out Wednesday when I gingerly asked Brady whether he’s ever felt this good in mid-October.
“I feel good,” said Brady. “I felt good at this time last year though, too. From one year to the next, I’d say I’ve become pretty efficient with how I get ready to play.
So the missing of September?
“I always wish I could be out there playing,” he pointed out. “I’d much rather be playing than not playing, but it is what it is. I feel good at this point. But like I said, I felt good last year, I felt good the year before that, and I think every year at this time of year just based on the right routine and kind of doing the right things to get yourself feeling good.”
The line of questioning was prompted by two things.
First, Brady’s played 256 games -- regular season and playoffs -- since 2000. His 31 postseason starts are the most in NFL history and he’ll add to it this year. No quarterback’s ever had a schedule like Brady’s for as long as Brady and the punishment he takes (witness Denver last January) would have destroyed the Montanas and Mannings with whom he’s compared. The extended layoff had to do a body good. And the level at which Brady’s playing right now -- and may continue to because he’s fresher -- can only mean good things.
Second, all the band, resistance and quickness work Brady does will never make him fast. But it has seemed to make him more decisive and determined that -- when he does opt to run -- the body will cooperate and arrive at the appointed destination without disaster.
Sunday, Brady both bought time for completions and embarked on short-range scrambles that picked up key first downs.
When Brady talked last week about making Pittsburgh “defend every inch of the field,” Brady scooting into open areas was a perfect illustration of that.
“If there are two or three plays a game that you can make just moving the pocket, or sliding, or buying your receivers more time, or scrambling on third-and-two, it’s just one more thing that they have to defend,” said Brady. “We made – Jimmy [Garoppolo] made a bunch of those when he was in there early. Jacoby [Brissett] made some.
“It’s nice to be able to do that because I think it’s a little discouraging for a defense when they feel like they’ve got you covered or they’ve got the right call on it, and all of the sudden – I mean, I don’t think they’re preparing for me scrambling for first downs. I know they’re not working on that. They’re working on stopping Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], and stopping Julian [Edelman], and Danny, and Hogs [Chris Hogan], LeGarrette [Blount] and James [White]. That’s not one of their top 10 things on their hit list, so I think it’s pretty discouraging when it happens and hopefully we can keep it going.”
At this point, Brady’s running has to at least be in the scouting report.
Although Rex Ryan isn’t buying.
“I’d like to see him do it more often,” said Ryan when asked if the scrambling of Brady was becoming annoying. “Put him in the option, that’s one thing that doesn’t scare you much, you live with that. What scares you is when he lets the ball go. He’s able to pick up a few first downs, But I think we may have the edge in running ability this week. I may go out there and make that bold statement. They may be worried about (Tyrod Taylor) more than than we’ll be about Tom running.”