Examining Nate Solder on the cusp of free agency

 

Spending his entire childhood and young adult life in Colorado, Nate Solder was drafted to one of Denver’s biggest rivals, New England. A first-round pick in 2011 Nate Solder has been a steady presence at left tackle, protecting Tom Brady’s blind side for just over the last half-decade. If your team is in need of a left tackle could Solder be the guy?

Strengths: Recruited as a Tight End, it wasn’t until his second collegiate career Nate Solder became the tackle he is today, in more ways than one does that show. At 6’8, 325 lbs with 35 ½ inch arms, Solder is the right size for your standard tackle, but it’s his ability to move is what makes him good.

Run Blocking/Athletic Ability: Solder is smart and quick on his feet, he can make pretty much any run block you’d need him too. Excellent at the second level, strong at the point of attack and quick enough to get where he needs to if you want a run game boost Solder is your guy.

Here are two clips showing off Solder’s ability to get to the second level and execute there. He does this stuff commonly and might be his best trait.

Quick out of his stance, locks on and drives opponents, Solder is one of the best-left tackles in the run game.

Athletic, New England uses Solder in space, very effective as a screen blocker.

Can make all the run blocks you need, here’s an example of him effectively making a reach block to spring a long run.

Mental Processing: It’s crucial your blindside protector can quickly watch a play develop and Solder is well above average in this regard. While he isn’t the fastest processor I’ve seen he demonstrates pretty good awareness but more importantly a quick twitch and fast reaction time, this allows him to recover well on anything he might miss.

Here are two clips of Solder handling stunts extremely well.

But now here is a stunt that he didn’t see soon enough but recovers well.

Competitive Toughness:

After watching Solder I can confidently say his competitive toughness is strong, that might come with playing with the Patriots for so long. He looks to finish, never looks defeated even after a bad snap, and will play to the whistle.

The Eagles may have won, but the defender still is probably feeling is one

Has to keep up with an extended play and does it very well

The Bad/Ugly: Solder is considered a “hold on for your life” type of pass blocker, he isn’t bad at pass pro by any means, but it is pretty ugly and not one of his strengths. While Solder shows a strong upper body he has a pretty weak lower half, you can see this whenever he has to anchor which he tries to not have to do.

He prefers to match and mirror his defender, which I’ll show here:

He aims his punch to knock defenders off course, then gets in between them and the quarterback. It’s a risky way to play, but he’s better at that than just taking them straight on.

His arm strength could have been put under the strength category because he flashes great strength there, but that’s it, it comes in flashes. His hand technique could not be refined up to this point in his career and is wildly inconsistent, look at what happens when he lands his punch and grabs the defender

But he doesn’t do this too commonly, it’s usually punch into match and mirror, whereas that was punch into grab. This is the type of pass pro you want.

Unfortunately, he can’t do that every time, he will miss punches and he struggles to recover if he does. If his punch doesn’t hit hard, the defender can take control.

This is something you have to live with, but it does get a bit worse. His hand usage is inconsistent but quality when it works, his footwork is why he matches and mirrors so much, he doesn’t have the proper footwork, foot speed or lower body strength to keep up with every edge defender, this is what I mean.

By all means did he “make the block” but it wasn’t pretty at all. He does absorb power well, but if the ball isn’t out shortly you can watch the pocket collapse from his side consistently. Yet surprisingly he’s better against power rushers than speed rushers, in fact, finesse rushers can destroy Solder. Melvin Ingram had his way and beat him multiple times, Bosa had far less success, but did occasionally beat him when utilizing a finesse move.

He’s very reliant on his initial punch if that lands effectively Solder has probably already won the snap, if it doesn’t he holds on for dear life.

Conclusion

Solder is a very quality starting left tackle but his roles are reversed from what you’d typically expect out of the position, he’s a plus run blocker and an okay pass protector. I also wouldn’t mess with trying to move his position, as far as I’m aware he’s a career left tackle. Any team that has a more mobile QB should be interested, while Tom Brady isn’t fast or agile but any means he has an elite pocket presence, so a team with a statue at quarterback won’t be set with Solder at LT simply because Brady was slow. Solder will add an instant boost to your run game, he constantly was opening holes and making key blocks for running backs to follow. He will be entering his age 30 season in 2018, which isn’t nearly as scary for offensive lineman as it is skill positions, so don’t worry too much about rather or not he’s run down or not, you can expect another solid two to three seasons at least. I expect him to have a decent group of teams vying for his service but won’t get paid like some other lineman will, a return to New England also isn’t out of the question.

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