New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady already has been sacked more through five games than he was in the entire 2016 regular season. The amount of hits Brady is taking seems to be a ticking time bomb, despite his “pliability,” for a 40-year-old signal-caller.
One of the reasons Brady is getting hit more is because he’s holding onto the ball longer, as he’s forced to throw deeper without Julian Edelman in the offense. The other reason is the Patriots’ offensive line, in particular starting left tackle Nate Solder, who is not playing up to its typical standards.
Solder has allowed three of the Patriots’ 16 sacks this season. He’s allowed 18 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He let up five sacks and 26 total pressures in 15 games last season.
“I think that overall, as a team, there are things that we all need to do better: coaching, playing, adjustments and so forth,” head coach Bill Belichick said Monday during a conference call when asked about Solder’s struggles. “Sometimes we haven?t just executed things the way that we want to do it.
“There have been a number of reasons for that. Again, all of us can improve and do better. That?s what we?re going to try and do.”
Solder didn’t play during the preseason while dealing with an undisclosed injury that also forced him to miss practice time. Could that be leading to Solder’s slow start?
“Well, of course, the reason why we have practice is so that players can improve,” Belichick said. “I think any player that practices has more of a chance to work on his fundamentals and improve them than a player that doesn?t practice.
“But that being said, most players somewhere along the line miss some practice time or a game, so that?s something that each individual player has to deal with from time to time. You want to have as many players out there as you can and have them improving individually and have them working with their teammates, but as we all know, that?s hard to get 100 percent attendance on that. If it?s not, then there?s another person that steps in and does it, but ideally you want everybody out there, but there?s not a team in the league that has that.”
Belichick continued to speak in generalities when asked if he believes Solder can get back to his normal level of play.
“Again, our team isn?t centered around one position or one player,” Belichick said. “It never has been. I can?t imagine it will be in the future, so it?s a combination of all 11 guys working together offensively, 11 guys on defense, 11 guys in the kicking game. Ultimately, I think that, yeah, each of those units, that we can improve and we can play good, winning football with each unit, which we?ve done at times and then it hasn?t been consistent enough in any area.
“As I said, every position can get better. Look, it?s a team sport and all 11 players have to perform well for the unit to be successful and that?s what we?re all working toward, so that involves everybody.”
Solder’s contract runs out after the 2017 season. The Patriots selected offensive tackles in the third (Antonio Garcia) and sixth (Conor McDermott) rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Garcia is on the non-football illness list, and McDermott was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots also held onto two undrafted rookie offensive tackles. Cole Croston is on the team’s 53-man roster but has yet to suit up in a game. They also have Andrew Jelks, who’s on the non-football injury list after sitting out the entire summer. The Patriots’ backup offensive tackles are Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle.
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