Patriots

Patriots draft giant OT Solder with 17th pick

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Patriots draft giant OT Solder with 17th pick

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots took a massive bookend tackle on Thursday night. Nate Solder, a 6-8,319-poundbehemoth out of Colorado, was selected with the 17th overall pick. With Matt Light a free agent, it would seem Solder becomes the immediate heir apparent to one of the starting offensive tackle spots. Sebastian Vollmer, who also goes 6-8, has played right tackle for the past few seasons but could kick over to Light's left tackle spot. Or Solder could be installed right away at left tackle. A converted tight end, Solder will fall under the guidance of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
With a few surprise picks in the top 15, the Patriots wound up with their pick of players at a variety of positions. They passed on Cal defensive end Cam Jordan, Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara, Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Rams DT Corey Liuget. The Patriots took most of their allotted 10 minutes before turning in the card on Solder. They were working on a deal to move down and add picks but weren't able to get a satisfactory one done and made their selection. Here's the breakdown I did on Solder back on April 11: Nate Solder, 6-8, 319OT, Colorado

The Skinny: Massive football player who entered Colorado as a tight end prospect but was transitioned into a left tackle during his redshirt sophomore season. Started at left tackle the next 38 games consecutively. Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki notes that, on 1,400 career pass plays, he allowed five sacks and 21 pressures. The Patriots have visited extensively with Solder, a player described as being very professional, dedicated and coachable. One of the reasons they may have spent significant time with him, though, was to figure if that long frame can put more weight on without sacrificing too much athleticism and to find out if his relatively meager 21 bench press reps were indicative of a guy who will struggle with bull rushes.

Gotta Have Him: Smart, diligent, a "Patriots type" player. With Matt Light a free agent and on in years, the new guy - whether it be right tackle Sebastian Vollmer or a draftee - needs to be groomed. Solder has been ticketed to the Eagles with the 23rd overall pick. He's going to get better as he goes and - under the watch of line coach Dante Scarnecchia, he could be a long-time fixture at left tackle.

Don't Need Him: Not sure if he has the versatility the Patriots covet in their prospects. While a guy like Baylor's Danny Watkins can play guard or tackle on either side, Solder seems a guy who will just be a tackle. And when you have a guy who's that long, it's sometimes difficult for them to keep players from getting under them and driving them back.

Forecast: He's got a lot of things the Patriots will like. And playing for Colorado he was against solid competition that gives the team a good read on his performance level. The height issue didn't scare them off Sebastian Vollmer. Still, if there were one lineman in the early part of this draft that seems to play to their strengths, it seems to be Watkins.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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