Solder makes the most of his many reps

191543.jpg

Solder makes the most of his many reps

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO At 6-foot-8, 319 pounds, Nate Solder stands head and shoulders over most NFL players.

But after watching him play on Thursday, it's clear why the New England Patriots made him their first-round pick in last spring's NFL draft.

The rookie offensive tackle made the most of his opportunity to play in New England's preseason opener, as he opened a number of holes and a few eyes as the Patriots defeated Jacksonville, 47-12.

With New England's stars and aging veterans, including Matt Light, being held out of the Jacksonville game, it allowed Solder to get starter-like snaps.

"It's good to have an opportunity," Solder said. "You get more comfortable with every snap, and I had a few (Thursday night) and that helped me to get more comfortable."

Added Pats coach Bill Belichick: "We looked at a lot of people (Thursday night); a lot of young players. That was kind of the idea."

Solder was at left tackle for the entire first half of Thursday night's game, a familiar role for him when you consider he was on the field for 2,540 out of a possible 2,542 snaps during his college career at Colorado.

"It was neat to be out there, and I'm happy to be with this team," Solder said. "I have a great group of teammates. But it's a process and I have a long ways to go."

That's true, which is why chances such as Thursday night's start against the Jaguars are so important to his growth.

With the various changes this year because of the late start and the new CBA, rookies like Solder are at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to rookies of past seasons.

So every shot at getting on the field can not be taken for granted. And to Solder's credit, his play in both the running and passing game was instrumental in the Patriots' lopsided victory.

Trailing the Jaguars 6-0, Solder drove a Jacksonville defender backwards and then on to his back which was just enough breathing room for another Pats rookie, running back Stevan Ridley, to power his way into the end zone from one-yard out.

Solder wasn't done.

On Boston's next scoring drive, Solder held his block just long enough for quarterback Brian Hoyer to connect with Taylor Price on an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt failed, which left the Pats with a 13-6 lead.

Belichick, never one to douse too much praise on a rookie's play let alone a rookie after his first preseason game was very Belichickian in his initial thoughts on Solder's performance.

"Nate did some good things. I think we really have to look at film and take a close look at everybody," Belichick said. "But he has handled himself well in the practice opportunities he's had over the past week. It seemed like there were some things in the game that were pretty good. And a couple things that didn't look so good. That's the way it is with all rookies. You build on the positives, correct the mistakes and hope that we can eliminate or minimize those mistakes next time around."

For Solder, opportunities to make mistakes in game situations and learn from them, will be few and far between this season with veteran left tackle Light back in the fold.

So Solder understands all too well the importance of opportunities such as the one he had Thursday night.

"I'm staying within the system, with my responsibilities," Solder said. "What my coach asks of me, that's what I'm going to do. It's a building process. You're never there; you're never not there. I'm just getting better everyday."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Patriots bolster receiver depth by adding Brown to practice squad

patriots.jpg

Patriots bolster receiver depth by adding Brown to practice squad

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have added some receiver depth to their locker room by signing Da'Ron Brown to their practice squad. 

Brown, 25, was a seventh-round pick of the Chiefs in 2015 and spent his rookie season on the Kansas City practice squad. At Northern Illinois, the 6-foot, 199-pounder caught 155 passes in four years, accumulating 2,295 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores in his career. As a senior in 2014, he caught 68 passes for 1,065 yards. 

With the signing, the Patriots have filled out their practice squad. The team has had an opening on its 10-man unit since the Colts signed away receiver Devin Street for their 53-man roster.

With just four receivers on the Patriots roster, not including special teams ace Matthew Slater, they've loaded up on receiver depth through their practice squad with Brown, Devin Lucien and DeAndrew White.

Brissett, Garoppolo both practicing for Patriots on Tuesday

patriots-brissett-092216-1.jpg

Brissett, Garoppolo both practicing for Patriots on Tuesday

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had both of their qurterbacks on the field and suited up for Tuesday's shells-and-sweats practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. 

Both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) are dealing with injuries, but both were present for the session, as were the rest of their teammates on the 53-man roster. 

Brissett was spotted in the Patriots locker room before practice with no brace or wrap of any kind on his thumb, but he did have his right thumb taped when out on the field. 

Patriots tight end AJ Derby was the lone player in a black practice jersey, indicating that he has been named practice player of the week. Running low on quarterbacks, Derby may have served as the scout-team quarterback as the Patriots defense prepared for the Texans. He played the position at Iowa and Arkansas before changing positions.

The Patriots have four practices scheduled this week, and the team will release injury reports, as usual, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.