|Nate Solder: ‘I don’t think confidence has been a problem’ with offensive line||09.26.14 at 6:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s been a brutal week of criticism for everyone along the Patriots’ offensive line.
Even Tom Brady dropped very subtle hints this week that he needs more time to “make better decisions” and expressed concern that sometimes teams “flatten out” in their improvement and never get above a certain level.
But all of that has done nothing to shake the confidence of one those who has heard the most criticism since the Patriots escapted 16-9 Sunday against the Raiders. Nate Solder figures to once again be the starting left tackle, assigned to slowing down Tamba Hali or Justin Houston. Solder says neither he nor any of his offensive line teammates are in a confidence of crisis.
“I don’t think confidence has been a problem,” Solder insisted Friday after practice. “We’ve been building steadily the whole year and we’re going to continue to do that.
“We’re working hard to fix everything. At this point, it’s just a building process. Things hopefully improve but you never know until game day so we work hard every day to make it better.”
As for slowing Hali or Houston, Solder knows what he’s up against.
“Exceptional players, play really hard and make a lot of plays. Huge challenge for us,” Solder said.
Even with the struggles of the offensive line against the Dolphins and Raiders, Solder and Sebastian Vollmer appear to be fairly secure at the left and right tackle spots, respectively. It’s the interior line where the Patriots might decide to shake things up, especially with veteran center Ryan Wendell not appearing on the injury report.
After struggling through the first three games of the season, the Patriots offensive line is looking forward to showing that it can perform at a higher level when it takes the field Monday night in Kansas City.
If the Patriots decide to shake up the offensive line, such as starting rookie Bryan Stork at center, moving Dan Connolly to right guard or even swapping out left guard Marcus Cannon, they’ll be doing do in one of the most hostile environments in football – Arrowhead Stadium. But Solder, who played in the Big 12 at Colorado, says he’s not overly concerned.
“I imagine the crowd will get into it at some point but our main opponent is the Chiefs so that’s what we’re really focused on.”
|Nate Solder: ‘I’d like to shore up my pass protection’||09.24.14 at 7:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Give Nate Solder credit for this much: he knows exactly where improvement in his game begins. He admitted Wednesday that if he doesn’t do a better job blocking for Tom Brady‘s blindside, the Patriots offense has little chance of improving.
“I’d like to shore up my pass protection,” Solder told reporters in front of his locker. “I’d like to work better with the offensive line and do some of those things better that I haven’t been doing well.”
On Sunday in the 16-9 win over the Raiders, Solder allowed three quarterback hits on the franchise and at least one hurry. Solder had particular trouble against Raiders rookie sensation Khalil Mack and veteran lineman Justin Tuck.
But if Solder thought those two were tough, he could be having nightmares about what’s coming up the next two weeks. On Monday night in Kansas City, while he’s trying to battle the noise at Arrowhead and the communication on the line, he’ll have to deal with either Tamba Hali or Justin Houston, both outside linebackers. That will be followed up by Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry six days later at Gillette Stadium.
“We’re going to practice at a high pace and high tempo and try to get as prepared as we can for any sort of circumstances that may arise,” Solder said.
There’s been plenty of speculation this week that there is a serious issue with cohesion and leadership on the offensive line and that there might even be dissension with new offensive line coach Dave DeGugielmo. The Patriots offensive line reportedly came in extra early Wednesday morning for meetings. Solder acknowledged the issues of unity when he said the offensive line needs to close ranks and get on the same page heading into Kansas City.
“Yeah, you’ve got to have to have some cohesion and some unity going into that situation,” Solder said. “Every week in this league you have to be improving, especially when you’re not playing where you want to be, you have to make strides throughout the course of the week.”
How bad has it been? Brady has taken six sacks, 10 hits and has been hurried 28 times in the first three weeks.
“I think the problem is we’re not playing the way we’d like to play and we’re going to continue to work on that,” Solder said.
|Dan Connolly, Nate Solder vow better effort in protecting Tom Brady||09.10.14 at 8:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There’s a time-tested expression in the NFL that the film don’t lie.
This week, every Patriots offensive lineman had to sit through meetings early in the week and take a look at what happened in Miami and figure out why it was open season on Tom Brady last Sunday.
Teams that take a look at that film are going to think that they can pin their ears back and get to Brady. It’s up to veterans like Nate Solder and Dan Connolly to bring the unit together and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I think that’s a goal a lot of times when teams play us,” newly appointed captain Dan Connolly said Wednesday. “It’s up to us to make sure we firm up the pocket and protect the quarterback. We just have to put the last game behind us.”
“Man, we’re working on everything,” Solder added. “We didn’t feel real happy with anything we did last game so we went back to our fundamentals and are working on everything. It’s a lot of basic stuff. It’s a lot of stuff that we know how to do and can improve.
“There is a process of developing your own skills, no matter who you’re playing against. But as the week goes, you have to hone in on your skills for a particular opponent. It’s a combination because (the Dolphins) are very good players and that made it tough on us when we didn’t use the proper techniques.”
In a game that featured musical chairs along the line, Connolly was the only lineman to play two positions, as he alternated from starting center to left guard.
“I was the guy moving. I do my job in both spots and just focus on that,” Connolly said.
The biggest difference at right guard and center?
“I don’t have to snap the ball,” Connolly said of playing right guard. “I’m looking at the same thing the center is looking at. The center is a little more vocal, making sure everybody is on the same page but as a whole, we all need to know what’s going on, see where the linebackers are and kind of anticipate where pressures are coming and ultimately, just block the front.
Connolly, when at center, is calling out protections along the line and is the man responsible for bringing together the likes of Solder, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Cameron Fleming, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Sebastian Vollmer
“There’s definitely a chemistry involved but I think we do a good job here of rotating guys through and building a chemistry with multiple groups, and not just playing with five guys in practice and throw somebody else in there and it’s confusion,” Connolly said. “We play with different guys so I think we’re ready when other guys come into the game.
“You never know when you’re going to lose a guy so guys always have to be ready.”
|Newly-formed Patriots offensive line ‘gaining a familiarity’||09.08.14 at 9:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots offensive line without Logan Mankins did not get off to a good start.
According to Pro Football Focus, the offensive line surrendered 23 total pressures on 56 pass attempts, forcing quarterback Tom Brady to be under constant duress in Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Dolphins in Miami.
The Patriots started with an offensive line of Nate Solder at left tackle, Marcus Cannon at left guard, Dan Connolly at center, Jordan Devey at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle, but that was constantly changing as the team rotated all linemen who dressed for the game in and out.
Pro Football Focus also had Connolly, Cannon and Solder playing every offensive snap with Vollmer only missing one play. Devey saw significant time playing 64 snaps, followed by Ryan Wendell with 22. Rookie Cameron Fleming played more as a tight end on his four plays in the game.
“In this game we planned on playing all of our linemen, which we did,” Bill Belichick said in a conference call Monday. “We used Cam [Fleming] in some of our personnel groupings as a tight end and we used four guys to play the three positions inside. We felt like they all had played well, deserved to play, so that’s how we played them. I would say we didn’t really have a lot of communication issues. We just had some fundamental and technique — we had more fundamental and technique breakdowns than we did just bad — an assortment of mental errors. That was true defensively as well. I don’t think it was a game where there was a lot of missed assignments. It was more, I would say, a lack of execution of good fundamentals.”
It was the first regular season game for the group, as well as with new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. The grouping did not perform up to past standards as they allowed a total of four sacks. Solder, a three-year veteran, said Monday their struggles could have had something to do with the number of players rotating in and out without establishing any continuity.
“There might have been a little of that,” Solder said. “I think it’s just a matter of going through a lot of things together, gaining a familiarity. I think it will all work together if we continue to do the things we’re coached to do.”
|With Logan Mankins gone, what now for Patriots offensive line?||08.26.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In the space of 10 months, the Patriots have lost their longtime offensive line coach to retirement and their heart-and-soul offensive line captain to NFL economics.
The question now is, what will the Patriots do without Dante Scarnecchia and Logan Mankins? Part of that question has already been answered as new offensive line coach Dave Duglielmo has had a full spring and summer with the players he hopes will keep Tom Brady clean, healthy and upright all season.
But the second part of that equation is a big TBD.
“We have a lot of guys with a lot of good experience, like Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer and there’s a whole list of guys who know what they’re doing. We can definitely get by,” Solder said.
Obviously, the Patriots are looking for much more than just getting by when it comes to keeping No. 12 upright. They’re not looking for the next Pro Bowler per se, but rather someone who will give them consistent play from the left guard position that they’ve gotten for the past nine seasons from Mankins.
And while Connolly and Wendell could be options at left guard, there are other names to consider who could step in immediately. Jordan Devey, Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon. All three have played the interior line at some point in their time in New England, with Devey and Kline getting the most reps during games while Cannon has played primarily tackle, filling in at right tackle last season when Sebastian Vollmer went down with a season-ending broken leg.
Then, late in the season, against the Ravens in Baltimore, Belichick provided some possible foreshadowing of life without Mankins at left guard. With Solder out with a concussion, the team shifted Mankins to left tackle. It was the 24-year-old Kline who filled in for Mankins at left guard, making his first career NFL start.
Whoever gets the call at left guard, Solder is completely confident that he can help lead the new group into the 2014 season.
“A ton of confidence,” Solder said. “Those guys work so hard and they’re awesome people. I have a ton of confidence. That’s why they’re here. The way I kind of view leadership is to do my job the best that I can. If that influences people, I hope it does, but that’s kind of the role I see myself in.”
|Devin McCourty on Logan Mankins: ‘Don’t know if [you] get that type of teammate ever again’||at 6:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For those Patriots who played with Logan Mankins, Tuesday was harder than any offseason or training camp practice they’ve had this season.
After their first practice without the six-time Pro Bowl left guard, they came off the field and had to face the reality that the business side of the NFL and the Patriots had hit home. Mankins’ locker was in tact along with some team equipment but his teammates were left to answer questions about his sudden departure to Tampa Bay.
“He’s the type of guy you don’t know if get that type of teammate ever again,” safety Devin McCourty said. “He’s a tough guy. The different injuries he’s played through, being out there every snap, every chance he could get. When I got here, he wasn’t at here at first because he was home and he missed first couple of games. He came back and you could see the difference up front in how everybody played. He went to the Pro Bowl in a half-year. I think that just spoke volumes about a guy who you just see his leadership stand out as soon as he steps on the field.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s a guy you look up to, and I’m a defensive back and that’s watching the offensive line. Tampa is going to get one helluva player, and guy.”
McCourty the player then spoke like McCourty a team captain.
“There are some things you can’t control. You just accept,” he added. “It’s tough, it’s tough. You just tell yourself, and it starts the older guys on the team, you have to go out there and play. You can’t just sit there and sulk or be disappointed in your mind. You just have to go out there and play and make sure the younger and go about it and play and follow your lead. That’s the way I looked at today.
“This time of year is difficult. When we have 90 guys, whether it’s a guy like Travis Hawkins, in my room every day asking me a bunch of questions, working his tail off. Coach says it every year, this is a tough time for everybody. Coaches don’t like making these decisions. This one felt a little bit more because of the type of player Logan was and how long he’s been here.”
Mankins is gone to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Matthew Slater is another Patriots player who, like Mankins, has served as a captain before. He admitted that once the team was informed by Bill Belichick of the trade before practice Tuesday, it was tough going about business.
“It is difficult,” Slater said. “You know a guy for a number of years, you get to know his family, his kids, and that makes it tough. There is always a human element involved. We signed up to do a job here, and we understand what that job entails, and we understand what comes along with that, but at the same time, you can’t separate yourself from the human element, and the emotions and feelings that come along with it.
|First-half thoughts: Ryan Mallett beat up, Chris Jones (ankle) leaves injured||08.07.14 at 9:00 pm ET|
LANDOVER, Md. — Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the first half at FedEx Field, as the Redskins hold a 13-0 lead.
It was not a good start for Nate Solder and the offensive line, especially Solder. He committed a hold that wiped out a first down pass from Ryan Mallett. Then he got beat once for a sack and allowed another pass rush that got a big hit on Mallett.
Mallett was again up and down. He completed sharp passes to Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell. But he showed nervous feet in the pocket and rushed two throws for incompletions on third down. Mallett showed off his arm with eight seconds left when he let loose on a deep ball from his own 25. But it fell incomplete for Thompkins in double coverage. He finished the first half 5-of-12 for 55 yards.
Vince Wilfork played just the first series alongside Tommy Kelly and Chris Jones in a 3-4 look. He moved well but obviously the Patriots will monitor him closely as he gets back to full game conditioning. After Wilfork left, Joe Vellano, the man who filled in after Wilfork’s Achilles injury last year, got plenty of time over the ball. Will Smith, Zach Moore and Marcus Forston also saw significant time in the first half.
But the Patriots, who are already without the services of Sealver Siliga (left hand), lost Chris Jones with just over a minute left in the first half to an ankle injury. He had to be helped off the field and then walked very slowly to the Patriots locker room.
Rookie Roy Finch got a mulligan on a kickoff return when he ran up the middle and then sprinted to daylight on right sideline, only to lose the ball as he sped up and tried to juke his way past a defender. Washington recovered but Finch was saved by an Redskins offsides. Finch was back again and returned again and this time held on.
Both teams missed field goals in the first half, including Stephen Gostkowski, who had plenty of leg but dinged his 54-yarder halfway up the right upright midway through the second quarter.
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