Sports Illustrated’s (and former Boston Globe beat writer) Greg Bedard listed his top 10 offensive tackles for 2016 and included New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder in the rankings.
“This, admittedly, is a bit of a projection,” Bedard writes. “Solder was on an upswing coming out of the 2013 season but then he fell off a bit due to circumstances out of his control: line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, and he never seemed to mesh with the coaching style of new coach Dave DeGuglielmo. Solder also endured testicular cancer prior to the ’14 season and then missed most of last season with a torn bicep. Most traumatic of all: his infant son is fighting kidney cancer.
“Solder is still a terrific athlete and with Bill Belichick luring Scarnecchia out of retirement, and with health on his side (and hopefully his son’s), he should have a big bounce-back season.”
Solder was atrocious in both 2014 and 2015 under DeGuglielmo, although his play stabilized once veteran Dan Connolly settled in at left guard in 2014. One could argue that he requires a capable left guard in order to thrive, after playing next to fringe Hall of Fame guard Logan Mankins and then Connolly, but Solder was good in 2013. He ranked in Pro Football Focus’ Top 101 in 2013 and looked to be a bona fide franchise left tackle.
Can the return of Scar fix all of Solder’s woes? Will rookie Joe Thuney or veteran Josh Kline or sophomore Shaq Mason or acquisition Jonathan Cooper be good enough to stabilize the left guard position? Is Solder sufficiently recovered from his torn biceps injury?
There are a lot of questions heading into the 2016 season. Solder did not participate in the offseason team activities as he continued his rehabilitation for his injury, so we are completely in the dark about where he stands.
Personally, I think two seasons of subpar play and the added injury prevents Solder from ranking in the top 10 for 2016. I hope he can return to his prior level of play because he was on track to become something really special.