Taking over for a steady veteran who held his ground at the left tackle position for over a decade in New England -- like Matt Light did prior to his retirement this offseason -- is a tall order.
Fortunately for the Patriots, the player who looks set to take over as Tom Brady’s blindside protector, Nate Solder, is ready to breakout in 2012, according to former NFL scout Gary Horton, who currently writes for Scouts, Inc.
In fact, Horton has Solder ranked behind only Buffalo’s Marcel Dareus as AFC candidates to break out (note: Insider content) in 2012.
He points to Solder’s size, range, quick feet and pass protection skills as reasons for cracking the list, and highlights being able to operate without the help of tight end blocking as one of the keys to his season.
Solder, who stands at roughly 6-foot-8, performed well both at left and right tackle last season, and his teammates have expressed confidence this offseason in his abilities to step into Light’s former role.
"Nate will do a good job filling those shoes," center Dan Connolly said on Thursday. "He’s a hard worker and I think he’ll do a good job.”