Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

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Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots took a left tackle. A good, solid left tackle. Nate Solder is a 319-pound plate of broccoli for the program. He's good for them. His next 10 years will likely be spent making sure Tom Brady's retirement years are fairly pain-free, then protecting the blindside of Brady's much-scrutinized successor. "Hes played left tackle and I think that will be his position in the National Football League," Bill Belichick said early Friday morning after the first round of the 2011 draft was put to bed. "I think his position is the one hes been playing. Its still obviously a different level of play and his techniques and there are a lot of things that hell have to improve on. But hes a smart guy, hard-working kid, hes already graduated (from Colorado), hes a good worker, so hopefully hell take the coaching that he gets from our staff and Dante (Scarnecchia, the Pats' offensive line coach) and be able to improve and develop at a position that he has some experience at."And that, as they say, is that. No oohhs, no aaahhhhs, no posters, minimal jersey sales. I appreciate what some people may be wondering: "WHERE'S THE PASS RUSHAHHHHH!?!?!?!?"It's a valid question. Pocket crushers, edge crashers and all manner of havoc-causing front-seven players were on the board in the first round. The Patriots could have jumped up a couple of spots from 17 and gotten North Carolina's Robert Quinn who went to the Rams at 13. Or Ryan Kerrigan who went to Jacksonville at 16. Or simply taken Cam Jordan at 17 (the Cal defensive end went to New Orleans at 24). They spent some time trying to trade down at 17 but nothing materialized. So, in the end,a left tackle to succeed Matt Light and protect the franchise's most valuable commodity was just as strong a need.Wes Bunting of the National Football Posttold me,"Solder is agood fit for New England. His best football is still ahead of him. A little more athlete than football player at this point because he's still learning how to play."You'd have to expect the Patriots to make a pitch to keepLight -- an unrestricted free agent -- for another year or two just to keep the spot warm while Solder develops. Light, judging by 2010, still has good football left in him. When the 28th pick rolled around, you knew the Patriots would again look to deal. And that time they did, sending No. 28 to New Orleans and picking up another first-rounder for 2012 and adding a third second-round pick for Friday. They passed on Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (who went to the hated Jets at 30) and Ohio State's Cam Heyward (31 to the Steelers). But, as Belichick pointed out, "We feel like there are players on the board that will give us good value at our picks that we have tomorrow." Will they use those picks? Specifically No. 33? That's the question. New England will surely get an offer similar to the one they got at 28 -- a first-rounder next year and a fourth second-rounder in 2011. But will they be down with letting so many good players go off the board between 17 and whenever their next pick arrives? That's what the Patriots will weigh between whenever you read this and 6 p.m. Friday evening. Take a front-seven guy -- Justin Houston from Georgia, Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson, Jabaal Sheard, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year from Pitt, Arizona's Brooks Reed -- or trade down again. The Patriots didn't do anything to make your heart race Thursday night. But their priority is to make September through January exciting, not April. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.