4. Nate Solder
I will never get why so many people are quick to deliver harsh criticism on Nate Solder, because he’s got what it takes to be one of the best left tackles in the league. In fact, Solder is already an average one with his often overlooked ability as a run blocker. He had a good all-around game in the Buccaneers and greatly improved his pass blocking from the first two preseason games. He will continue to develop as the season goes forward and should be one of the top ten left tackles in the game in his third season in the league in 2013; I’m confident in his developmental arc right now.
5. Ryan Mallett
The Arkansas product has consistently improved with each preseason game after a poor performance to start the preseason off against the New Orleans Saints. Ryan Mallett showed flashes in that game, but he looked uncomfortable in the pocket and overthrew his receivers far too much.
In second preseason game, Mallett looked more comfortable and had a decent enough game all told. But things really took off for him on Friday, as he had a 107.7 QB Rating and led two fourth quarter touchdown drives that he finished off with throws to Jeremy Ebert and Jesse Holley for TDs. Mallett looked accurate and poised, and he was more accurate than his 7-13 line suggests due to a couple of drops from his receivers. He was a bright spot for the Pats Friday, and his great improvement from the first game is a very encouraging sign for the Patriots.
Also rising: Nate Ebner, Jeff Demps, Stevan Ridley, and Tracy White
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.