EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 12, 2011

Solder's first step a giant one

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

FOXBORO — Nate Solder's debut at left tackle?

In a word, athletic.

The first-round draft pick out of Colorado, with barely a week of practices under his belt, exceeded all expectations last night in the Patriots' 47-12 exhibition thumping of Jacksonville.

Solder started on a makeshift offensive line with Thomas Austin, Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir and Steve Maneri and raised some eyebrows with his physicality.

"I just have so much to learn. There's a long way to go," said Solder, who didn't allow a sack in about three full quarters of work. "I was happy for the opportunity that's for sure. I felt good. My wind felt good. I felt like I could have played the whole game. I still have a long way to go."

Honestly, the 6-8, 319-pound 23-year-old looks a tad skinny in this era of aircraft carrier-sized left tackles in the NFL.

"Good feet but he plays too high and therefore isn't strong," has been a consensus in camp so far.

Last night, Solder was plenty stout, holding the point of attack against the Jags and their 3-4 set.

But it was in the second tier in the run game and in pass-blocking that Solder looked like he belonged from the opening snap.

He pancaked linebacker Paul Posluszny to pave the way for Stevan Ridley on his first TD run. The former high school hoop star in Colorado showed off his quick feet, repeatedly angling and walling off linebackers in pursuit.

And when Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett dropped to pass, Solder fended off bull rushes, speed rushes outside and spin moves back in, again showing uncanny balance.

It was a positive effort from the rookie, one that has to make the Matt Light signing look a bit more like insurance against injury.

"I'm not where I want to be, it's a process," said Solder. "It's funny how much I have to learn. So many little things a rookie has to learn. I'm kind of like a bull in a china shop, trying to find my way out."

And don't overlook the fact that Solder was ready to go, a la Logan Mankins after his holdout last year.

The kid came in hungry and in great shape.

"I think Nate did some good things," said coach Bill Belichick, who will surely spend the remainder of the preseason underplaying Solder, just to keep a rookie's ego in check. "He has handle himself well in the practice opportunities that he's had over the last week."