Solder makes the most of his many reps


Solder makes the most of his many reps

By A. Sherrod Blakely 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 Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron


Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron

In searching for answers on what might be going on with Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, coach Bill Belichick was asked on Monday if there was any chance that Gostkowski's mechanics on kickoffs may be affecting his field goals. With the new touchback rule encouraging the Patriots to use more "pop-up" kicks to the goal line this season, might Gostkowski's swing have been altered?

Belichick said that the two plays are separate and that the Patriots expect Gostkowski to be able to execute a whole series of different types of kicks as part of his job.

"Well, I think they’re definitely different," Belichick said on a conference call. "I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, it would be like a golfer. You’ve got to be able to hit a sand wedge. You’ve got to be able to hit a five-iron. You’ve got to be able to drive. You’ve got to be able to putt.

"That’s what kickers and punters do. There’s plus-50 punts, there’s field goals, there’s kickoffs, there’s backed-up punts, there’s punts against a heavy rush, there’s punts against a six-man box where the gunners both are getting double-teamed. And just like golf, there’s wind conditions and not wind conditions and so forth. So it’s not like like you’re standing out there in a driving range and just banging the ball away every time. Especially on place kicks, you’re dealing with a center and a holder and timing on the play. It’s not like you’re just placing the ball down there on a tee and kicking it like you are a golf ball or a kickoff.

"Yeah, they’re definitely different, and whether it’s a punter or a kicker you’re talking about, they have to master different skills, different kicks, different types of kicks, different things that are specific to their position, just like every other player and every other athlete, for the most part, has to do. If you’re a basketball player, you just can’t shoot free throws. You’ve got to be able to make some other shots, too. That’s part of the position, being able to do the things that are required of that position, and they’re not all the same. I don’t think they’re all the same for anybody."

Belichick was also asked about how Gostkowski is coached. There are position-specific coaches with every NFL franchise, but when it comes to special teams, there is typically a special-teams coordinator and little else. There is no kicking coach, generally, nor a position coach dedicated to punting or snapping. 

Belichick said that he feels the team has enough support in place, starting with special teams coach Joe Judge, in order to help Gostkowski through his difficult stretch.

"I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking," Belichick said. "I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involved with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.

"Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.

"There’s a whole host of things that go into performance, but all the things that are related to those; be able to figure out which ones are the most important and which ones need to be corrected and so forth. I think Joe’s very knowledgeable on that, as was Scott O’Brien. I have a lot of experience with that myself. That’s what coaching is. You don’t know, then you’ve got to find out. Nobody knows everything. No coach knows everything about every position. Maybe a guy’s played it for a decade, he might be well-versed in that position. But I’d say for the most of the rest of us that haven’t done that, things you don’t know, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to figure them out."

Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers


Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers

How quick was Tom Brady's release in the New England Patriots win over the The Pittsburgh Steelers? Glad you asked. 

On average, Brady took 2.11 seconds to release the ball. That’s not as quick as he was against Cleveland, when averaged 1.86 seconds, but still pretty flippin' quick.

2.05 - Gun. Edelman crosser 9 yards
0.80 - WR screen to Edelman - 2 yards
5.34 - Gun. Flushed. 13 yards to White
2.04 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 6 yards
1.59 - Gun. Screen to White. 19 yards. TD
1.65 - Gun. Edelman at the hash. 9 yards
1.72 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 11 yards
3.17 - Gun. Hogan outside the numbers. 13 yards
2.25 - Play action. Incomplete short left to White
1.24 - Edelman right flat. 6 yards
2.37 - Gun. Deep in to Gronkowski. 13 yards
2.20 - play action. Happy feet, Incomplete to Bennett
2.90 - Gun. Bolden drop
1.53 - Gun. Incomplete to White at the numbers
1.79 — Gun. Edelman crosser. 7 yards
1.36 - Gun. Short right to Blount. 7 yards
1.66 - Gun. Edelman drop 
3rd Quarter
3.44 - Gun. Awful backhanded flip throw. Incomplete to White
2.25 - Gun. Crosser to Bennett. 5 yards
1.39 - Gun. Short right to Edelman. 3 yards
2.18 - Gun. Ground seam. 36 yards. TD
1.59 - Gun. Short middle to Edelman. 11 yards
1.33 - Gronkowski. short right. 7 yards
3.16 - Play action. 37 yards to Gronkowski
3.89 - Gun. Pressure. Incomplete deep left to Mitchell