Patriots kickoff 2016: A look at Nate Solder
There are only 77 days until the New England Patriots open 2016, so we’re taking a closer look at the owner of the No. 77 jersey, offensive tackle Nate Solder.
Size: 6-foot-8, 325 pounds
College: Colorado (Boulder)
2015 stats: Four starts (four games)
NFL experience: Five seasons
Hometown: Denver, CO
Hands-down, Solder is by far the Patriots’ best offensive lineman and franchise left tackle. Since spending his rookie season at right tackle, Solder has been tasked with defending Tom Brady’s blindside, a role of utmost importance to the team’s success. It took four years in the organization for Solder to rise to captaincy ahead of the 2015 season.
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Unfortunately, 2015 did not go as planned for Solder. In Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys, Solder left the game with what initially appeared to be an elbow injury. However, it came to light that Solder had tore his right bicep, and he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve not long after the news broke.
Recent installments in Patriots kick-off countdown profile series:
83 days – No. 83 Martellus Bennett
84 days – No. 84 Nate Washington
What followed was a classic case of realizing a player’s value when he’s not on the field. Look, the tackle position doesn’t draw the headlines or the majority of fan interest by any means, but when Solder was out of the lineup, everybody and their mother noticed just how vulnerable Brady’s blindside was becoming. Solder was greatly missed over the next 12 regular season games and subsequent postseason contests.
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Looking ahead to 2016, Solder will look to get back into 2014 form when he piloted a revamped offensive line to Super Bowl glory. It is not a stretch to say that the Patriots’ 2016 success hinges on the health of the offensive line, and leading the pack in that category is Solder. The Pats need a strong return season out of Solder if they are going to keep Brady on his feet for 16 (sorry, I meant to say 12) regular season games.
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Speaking of the tackle position, be sure to stop by Musket Fire tomorrow morning as we mark 76 days until the Patriots open 2016 by profiling the owner of the No. 76 jersey, veteran right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.