It’s never been a secret in American football that the offensive line is the most underappreciated group on a football team. They don’t get lauded by the fans, or at least not as much as they deserve to. They don’t get the recognition they deserve, even though a football team could not function without them.
Fans want to see the quarterback, and the running backs, and wide receivers, and the tight ends. Those are the players that sell tickets. But without offensive linemen, those players wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. Without the guys on the O-line, Tom Brady wouldn’t be winning MVP awards at 40 years old.
The offensive line for the Patriots has been exemplified for the last seven seasons by Nate Solder, who served as a tackle for New England’s O-line since he was drafted in 2011 all the way through the 2017 season, after which he signed a four-year deal with the New York Giants. Like most offensive line players, Solder’s name has often been swept under the rug in favor of more “fan favorite” players.
But during his seven seasons in Foxboro, Solder was the ultimate Patriot. He started in 13 games during his rookie year in 2011. When Matt Light retired, Solder became the starting left tackle and started every game during the 2012 season, playing more snaps on offense than any other offensive player in the NFL.
He did get thrust into the spotlight, however, during the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Colts when Solder caught a 16-yard touchdown – his first ever reception in the NFL. Two weeks later, Solder earned his first championship ring in Super Bowl 49.
It was revealed after the 2014 season that Solder had been diagnosed with testicular cancer prior to the season, but after receiving treatment, still managed to play in every game that year. He missed much of the 2015 season due to injury, but was on the field for most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The Pats reached the Super Bowl in both of those years, winning the former.
New England’s offensive line has received much scrutiny over the years. Some years, the line has been better than others (which has been evident in recent years considering the numerous beatings Brady has taken from opposing defenses). But Solder has always been one reliable constant on the offensive line. When he was on the field, the O-line was significantly better.
After seven years, the big guy will be missed in New England. He will leave a big hole to fill on the offensive line.
(Watch your back, Tommy.)