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Lack of depth at tight end forces Patriots offensive line to get creative

08.16.14 at 7:57 pm ET
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In Friday’s 42-35 preseason win over the Eagles, New England utilized several different combinations along the offensive line. On a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon, Bill Belichick said there were several reasons the Patriots went with so many different personnel packages up front against Philadelphia, including the fact that New England went into the game with only one healthy tight end. As a result, some offensive linemen occasionally had to kick out to work as a tight end/tackle eligible.

“None of those players are really here to play tight end — they’€™re here to play center, guard or tackle, whatever the offensive line position or a combination is,” Belichick explained. “So which guy we move to tight end, that’€™s kind of a function of who’€™s available — who would cause the least disruption in the offensive line, combined with which player has the best skills to play on the end of the line. I’€™d say it comes down to a combination of those two things.

“Ideally, your sixth lineman would be not one of your starters who could come in and go out,” he added. “But if it’€™s not him and it’€™s some kind of juggling where you put one of your starters out there, then you bring somebody in then that causes a little juggling on the line and a player has to go out to come back in at his position for a play and so forth. But we’€™ve done it both ways. It’€™s just trying to find the best combination of those.”

There were a handful of players who filled the role of what Belichick called “end of the line” players. On Friday, it was a group that included left tackle Nate Solder. It’s a job that encompasses a wide range of skills.

“In the running game, you have to be able to block the end of the line of scrimmage,” Belichick said. “The tight end flips sides, from left to right, and the numbering of the plays changes and so forth. Whereas when you’€™re just playing one position, whether it’€™s right guard or right tackle or whatever it happens to be, a guy’€™s always in the same place and he doesn’€™t move and you get used to a numbering system or terminology that’€™s more consistent and stays the same for those guys all the time. But when you’€™re a tight end and you’€™re moving, then one time you’€™re on one side and one time you’€™re on the next side.

“The wheel starts to spin a little faster when you add that volume in addition to a regular line position. So there’€™s some learning [and] there are some techniques that are different,” he added. “It’€™s a little different look and a little different skill set.”

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